The web has made all forms of communication more informal. People have forged relationships with others that they never see, through a constant stream of messages. The decreased formality of the language used was a natural progression, as more people gained access to e-mail and used it as a casual method of staying in contact with family far away.
With the rise of social media, blogs and online advertising campaigns, writing on the web has evolved into a specialised field. Vast amounts of literature have been published on the subject. It even features in university courses.
When it comes to reading on computers, most readers don’t read the full page. 79% of users scan the page for content only. Speed is another problem with reading on the web. Reading from a computer screen is 25% slower than reading from paper. As a result, writers should try to keep their web content to about 50% of the paper equivalent.
Experts can disagree on what constitutes a web writing style and what doesn’t. Most writers advocate a comfortable, conversational writing style. Your writing should be a reflection of who you are and should be similar to the way that you would speak to a friend. The use of humour is usually recommended, in tasteful amounts.
Headlines need to be instant attention grabbers. A reader skimming over a page is not likely to be attracted to a bland headline so it is important that you make yours stand out. Some experts say that you can do this be being playful or clever, while others say that you must not use clever or “cute” headings since these will pass beneath a reader’s skimming radar. Try to be as descriptive as possible while keeping it short and punchy. It always helps to use action verbs rather than flat ones. The first word is important so try not to waste it by using “The” or “In” or something equally mundane.
The body of your work should contain all of the information that you want to convey, or all the news that you want to share, using the fewest words possible. Try to keep your sentences short and concise, even if you are a natural word wanderer. Given a choice between a big, impressive sounding word that shows off your vocabulary and a short word that gets the message across, go with the short word. Paragraphs should contain one idea only. Don’t split an idea over two paragraphs either. This ensures that your paragraphs are neat and allows your writing to flow well.
Once you’ve caught the reader’s attention with your expertly written headline, you have to hold it with the content of your article or webpage. A good tactic to use is to approach the reader on a personal level. People are more likely to react to situations that they can relate to personally. This applies to all media, including web writing. People’s purchasing habits and their emotions are closely linked. It is important to try and tap into them on an emotional level so that they will be more inclined to relate to your site or product.
A strong start is important to attract attention, and a strong finish is equally important. People remember beginnings and endings, it’s the middle bits that often fade into oblivion. You need to create an ending that will leave them thinking for a long time after they’ve switched their computers off. It’s not always an easy thing to do, especially if your subject matter does not lend itself easily to exciting images and thought provoking ideas. In such instances it’s best not to yield to the temptation to write something extreme, and that appeals to your darker sense of humour, for the sake of sensationalism. No matter how well written it is, blood and gore do not make a good ending to a client’s article.