Five simple rules for web-friendly content

Writing for the web is different than writing for other formats – on the internet people want minimum words but maximum content, and they want it fast.

Research has found that people read faster on screen – but we don’t read online text properly, instead we scan and pick out interesting keywords, sentences and paragraphs.

So if you want people to take the time to read what you’ve written you must develop your content so they can decide at a glance what it’s about and whether it’s worth their time reading it.

Here are five simple rules for making that happen.

1. Put your audience first

Before, during and after writing anything, the most important question you must ask yourself is:

Does this put my audience’s interest first?

Find out what interests them and tie it into your content. As a general rule, people are usually interested in ‘what’s in it for them’ so a safe bet is asking:

How does this benefit my audience?

Leave out anything that’s not essential. If your audience gets too far into your content and thinks ‘so what?’ they won’t read any further. A waste of time for all involved.

2. Write less

The golden rule for web content is ‘less is more’. You should write at least 50 per cent less than you would for a conventional publication and aim to streamline this even further when editing. Be ruthless.

3. Use plain language

Plain English is a term for communication that emphasises clarity, brevity and avoiding technical language, and its guiding principles are great for writing web-friendly content.

The fundamental principle of Plain English is to ask:

Is there a simpler way to say this?

You’ll be surprised how much better your writing becomes once you start removing redundant words and using small words instead of big, fancy ones.

4. Structure your content

Chunk information into related blocks and put the most important information first. This method is called the inverted pyramid.

It’s a style of writing used by journalists so you should already be familiar with it. Pick-up any newspaper for an example – you’ll see that you can understand what each article is about by reading only the first paragraph or two.

Inverted pyramid with 3 levels. Top level has exclamation icon with text of The main point goes right at the top. Middle level of pyramid has a star icon and with text of Supporting information backing up your point. Bottom level of pyramid, has a building icon and text with Background and history

5. Ask someone else to review it

Never underestimate the importance of good spelling, grammar and punctuation. It’s best to leave time between writing and editing a piece so your ‘fresh eyes’ can spot mistakes. Ask a friend or colleague to review it too.

By following these five rules you’ll produce content that people want to read. Happy writing!