Five tips to improve your writing

Writing for web content is quite different to writing for other mediums. Content used in print needs to be edited to make it suitable for web reading. Here are 5 tips that will increase the chance of your content being read, and more importantly, understood. Grasp these skills to improve the impact of your content.

1. Sentences and paragraphs should have a single purpose

Keeps sentences short and to the point. Sentences should be no more than 20 words in length. Break a sentence into two or three if it's too long. It's okay to start a sentence with 'and', 'but' or 'or'.

Paragraphs should have only one idea or topic. Start a new paragraph with each new topic. Paragraphs should have less than five sentences.

Use bullet points to list items or to create mini-headlines that highlight different topics.

2. Avoid 'ing' words

Avoid using words like 'running', 'managing', 'building'.

Example: Instead of 'We will be running a competition', try - 'We will run a competition';

Example: Instead of 'We will be managing...', try 'We will manage...'

Note: Nouns ending in -ing are fine. (eg. Strong writing, IT consulting, great fishing.)

3. Omit unnecessary words

The fewer words used to express an idea, the greater the impact.

Examples:

Summer period
The entire country
On a daily basis (usually best rewritten to 'every day')
She knew that it was good
Very
Four-year-old little girl

This skill can take a while to learn but it will pay off for your audience. Start by removing one or two words in each sentence, then do another cut. After a while you will automatically write short sentences.

4. Active vs passive voice

In most cases, web content should use an active voice. An active voice means you identify the 'speaker' first.

Example: "The academic board proposed the legislation" not "The regulation was proposed by the academic board."

However, there are exceptions when you are trying to catch the audiences attention (eg. news items, search engine blurbs)

Example:

Passive - FedUni Student Services has saved $2 million that will be put towards new gym equipment.

Active - $2 million savings by FedUni Student Services will be put towards new gym equipment.

5. Use spell-check

There's no excuse for teh or universty or any other spelling errors. The wriggly red line means the spelling is incorrect (or it is an abbreviation or special term not recognised by the dictionary). One exception is Americanisation of words. For example, we use 'ise' not 'ize'.

Remember

On the web:

  • people scan rather than read
  • keep things simple and short so your message gets across.
  • the first two words of a paragraph are key
  • the first two words of a heading are key
  • the less words, the more information gets imparted
  • proof read - sloppy grammar and spelling errors distract from the message