Good Web Writing – The Essentials
Communicating on the Internet involves using email and publishing web pages. To use these two strengths of the Internet effectively, clear and concise writing is essential. How things read and look is important.
Email: Used to communicate your thoughts to one person or a group.
Email Subject Lines
- This is the first thing seen as email is received. Make sure it says concisely what the email contains.
- Consider – You apply for a job. Put the position you are applying for in the subject line. There may have a number of vacancies.
Tone of Voice
- Email is quick. Fast production of replies can lead to misunderstanding. Make sure email says what you want it to, the way you want it to.
- Consider – You reply to an enquiry from a financial director. A formally toned reply will be better received.
Editing and Spell-checking
- Do this before sending.
- Consider – Email is no different from writing a letter. You would not send a letter to a friend or anyone else without it being readable.
Attachments, Graphics and Pictures
- Use only when necessary. Concise text with a logical structure and informative headings is always effective.
- Consider – People read email that comes in and opens up quickly.
Web pages: Used to publish information to a potential audience of millions.
Main Points in the First Paragraph
- Have your main points in a summary, in the first paragraph. The reader can quickly to decide to scroll down to the detail.
- Consider – A reader wants specific information. When you ‘signpost’ this subject at the top of a page, they will look further.
Use Fewer Words
- Keep things concise. Use short sentences. Break up long ones.
- Consider – It is hard to read on a screen. Readers want information fast.
- Well-presented information will make people come back.
- Consider – More people add web pages that look good and read well to their ‘Favorites’.
Headings and Sub-headings
- Main headings let you know what a page is about. Sub-headings guide to detail.
- Consider – You want history about the leaning tower of Pisa. The page you found has a main heading, ‘Attractions in Pisa’. It has a sub-heading, ‘Leaning Tower’.
- Then Consider – The heading is ‘Pisa’. There are 1000 words of text with no sub-headings.
Spelling and Punctuation
- Correct spelling and punctuation improves clarity and gives authority.
- Consider – Book publishers rarely publish spelling errors. Editing takes place before publication. Do the same for your Web pages.
- Make them informative and concise. Good hyperlink text is unambiguous. This satisfies readers at the outcome of every click.
- Consider – Click a link that says ‘Contact Us’. The page gives an email address, telephone number and postal address.
- Then consider – Click a link that says ‘Click Here’. What do you expect to be there?
- Dorner, J. (2002) Writing for the Internet, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK
- Nielsen, J and Loranger, H. (2006) Prioritizing Web Usability, New Riders, Berkeley, CA
- Google’s Webmaster Guidelines