How to Write Great Content for the Web

By Posted 2010 Updated   BloggingGuest PostsTutorials

Guest post by Cheri M.
How to write for the web? Whether you’re a web designer tasked with creating a website, a business owner trying to flesh out what content to put on your site, a blogger writing for your many followers, or a geek with something important to share, there’s something important you should know – the average person’s retention level on the internet is much lower than when reading something printed.

Where to begin

How can you ensure that your site’s visitors will read your content, stay for a while on your site, and come back again to visit? Here are a few tips that will help:

1. Use a conversational style

Website content is different from printed matter in that you’re trying to create a relationship with your reader. The tone of your language, therefore, should be more conversational and not as if you’re writing a press release or a scholastic essay. On saying that, keep in mind that your company has an image it wants to portray and you should maintain this. If you’re a legal firm you won’t want to sound like a teenage blog.

2. Don’t overload the page with text

It’s all very well that you want to pack your site with useful information, but think of your visitors’ attention span. Reading something on the computer monitor is not as easy as reading a newspaper so don’t overwhelm your readers with a sea of text. Instead, limit your page content to about 300 to 500 words per page.

3. Break up your text into manageable chunks

Imagine seeing a web page that has a single paragraph of 500 words. Your first thought would be to move on to a different page without bothering to read what you just saw. In order to prevent your site from looking like a scholarly journal and scaring your viewers away, break up your content into several paragraphs. How to do this: when you start talking about a different concept or idea, start a new paragraph. Keep your paragraphs to about 100 words each.

4. Use layman’s language

Try to keep your technical terms to a level that the average person will understand. A topnotch lawyer’s website is useless if its viewers can’t fathom what he’s trying to say. If you’re a geek, tone down the technical jargon. You want your viewers to stay for a while instead of scooting away as soon as they see the lingo on your first page. If you must use technical terms, explain what they mean.

5. Tailor your language to the culture of your targeted audience

Certain words in the English language take on a different meaning when you put them within a cultural context. If you’re targeting a US audience, then write using American English and not British or Australian English.

Here are a few examples:

  • potato chips (American) = crisps (British)
  • apartment (American) = flat (British)
  • elevator (American) = lift (British)
  • pants (American) = trousers (British)
  • slippers (American) = flip-flops (British) = thongs (Australian)
  • undershirt (American) = vest (British) = singlet (Australian)

6. Get to the point

When writing for the web, you’ll need to cut out the unnecessary words. Prolonged introductions, extraneous words in your adjectives and adverbs, overly long descriptions, and the use of words mined from a dictionary and which people hardly ever use anymore are pointless. The viewer will neither have the time nor patience to read all the fluff.

7. Watch for words that mean the same thing in different places

Keep your terms consistent in order not to confuse your readers. For example, don’t refer to a “FAQ” page as such on your homepage and then title that page “Knowledgebase.” What may seem stark clear to you may be confusing to readers.

8. Maintain consistency in your writing style

Most inconsistencies in websites are found in product descriptions, instructions, button labels, page title, and link text. Make sure these are consistent throughout your site. For example, if you start by using nouns for your tabs and links, maintain that and don’t switch to verbs midway. If you put in a listing and end one line with a comma, put a comma at the end of each item you’re listing until you reach the end, which you should end with a period. Inconsistencies in writing style may not seem very important but they speak a lot about the company that owns it.

9. Proofread your writing

Never upload content unless you’re sure it has been edited for both grammatical and typographical errors. If your English isn’t perfect and you’re not sure that what you wrote would pass an editor’s eyes, run your document through Microsoft Word’s Spelling & Grammar checker. Make sure too that you proofread the text on your website menu and button labels. Poor writing and sloppy proofreading will turn off your readers.

Guest author Cherie M. is a writer and marketing specialist working with Phases Design Studio out of Denver, CO. Visit Phases Design Studio for tips and tricks related to web and graphic design. See our guest post guidelines.

This is a guest article and represents opinions of the guest author

9 comments on “How to Write Great Content for the Web

  1. Rick Byrd says:

    Cherie:

    This is a great post!

    I totally agree with everything you are saying.

    Honestly I never thought much about language of the culture. I will have to remember this for future writings.

    I would only add that once the great content is written to remember to finish the great blog content by asking an open-ended question in order to engage the reader and get more comments.

    Thanks,

    Rick

  2. Rahul @ MazaKaro says:

    yeah, writing great content help our blog to get publicity. I earned $368 last month because of nice content only.

  3. Katie @ Headway Theme Review says:

    1-9…all so legit. Amazing job.

  4. Acting girl says:

    9) is very important. I have noticed complaints even when there are very small grammar issues. People notice, and think you suck if they notice grammatical errors.

  5. Eamon Diamond says:

    Make sure too that you proofread the text on your website menu and button labels. Poor writing and sloppy proofreading will turn off your readers.

  6. Cheap SSL says:

    Very interesting article i totally agree with you and it’s very useful for me to wright great content for my site. I fill pleasure to thank you for sharing this wonderful article also i bookmarked this one.

  7. Ian Wilson says:

    Please do not rely on Microsoft Word to proofread and check for spelling and grammar. This is one of the biggest problems with the adoption of technology over the past 25 years. Relying on (American) software to check the accuracy of text-based communication leads to poor quality output and the de-skilling of writers.

  8. wikipedia says:

    thanks, nice

  9. Chris@buy ear rings says:

    Hi really enjoyed reading your post.
    What is the need for technical knowledge if we can build entire websites using web content management system?

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