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© Ugur Akinci
Web writing is one of those assignments that technical writers do well due to their organized approach to technical information.
But web writing differs from regular user guide and procedural writing in some important respects.
Web is a fast place. People usually don’t have the time to go through long essays.
Here are my top 7 time-tested recommendations for web writing:
ONE. Be short. Concise. To the point. If you’re writing a page titled “Our Clients” do not preface it with an unnecessary “Here is a list of our client.” The page title and header have already said that. Just give the list with BULLETS and leave it there.
TWO. Use white space frequently. Don’t hesitate to separate each sentence with a blank line. Resolution of the computer monitor (96 dpi) is much lower than the printed page (1200 dpi). So give the eyes the room to rest and relax.
THREE. Use simple sentences. Avoid linking multiple clauses with “or”s or “and”s as much as possible. Write as you talk. People don’t say “actuate the button.” They say “press the button.”
FOUR. Remember your audience and avoid the jargon unless you are addressing a very technical group. If you are writing for currency traders it is okay to talk about the “downside of short selling margin calls.” But if your audience is used tire recyclers, you may lose them instantly.
FIVE. Get rid of all the fillers and deadwood. “Application Server Installation Tip” is much better than “So dear readers, here is our aforementioned tip on how to install an Application Server the correct way.”
SIX. Be relevant. Don’t include a phone number in the “About us” page. That belongs in the “Contact us” page.
SEVEN. Create curiosity in your TITLE while clearly specifying the content of the page. You should encourage the reader going deeper into the article without, however, presenting a difficult puzzle, or misleading the reader with a fake promise.
Here is an example to explain this important principle. Imagine we are trying to come up with a good title for a web page about “Social Network Marketing”…
BAD TITLE: “Advantages of Becoming Rich.”
(Duh! No new information. No action verb. Nothing intriguing or exciting here.)
MISLEADING TITLE: “Let a Kangaroo Earn $1 Million a Year for You!”
(VERY interesting title but clearly deceptive and unethical because there is nothing in the body of the page about kangaroos making money…)
BETTER TITLE: “Make $7,430 a month by Chatting Online with 30 Friends a Day on Facebook and MySpace!”
(Specific. Intriguing. And ties directly to how to market a business through Facebook and MySpace groups. BUT the text that follows MUST explain how to exactly do that otherwise it becomes as unethical and misleading a title as the previous one.)