10 tips for writing on the web


1. Know your audience & speak to them.

Online readers give you far less time to get their attention. If you don’t immediately tell them something interesting and relevant, they’re gone. Cut the waffle and cut to the chase. Or you’ll simply be a traffic sign to your competitor’s better-written site.

2. Use short words, sentences & paragraphs.

Big text blocks are hard to read online, especially if they’re justified (i.e. not left aligned). Use short words in short sentences. Keep your paragraphs under six lines. Read your copy aloud to find and kill every redundant word.

3. Use simple formatting.

Little flags, neon signs, flashing globes and red lights mean used cars, beer, fast food and sin. Web writing has its equivalent:


This distracts from your message and dilutes your brand. Unless you want to look cheap and nasty, use clean, simple formatting.

4. Use san serif fonts.

I can’t prove the online superiority of san serif fonts (e.g. Arial) to serif fonts (e.g. Times New Roman). Yet my colleagues and I believe san serif fonts look more professional and are easier to read on a screen.

5. Learn from the masters.

You needn’t be a pro to write well. The cheapest, easiest way to grasp online writing is to read those who’ve spent years perfecting it. Seth Godin , Copyblogger and that other chap are among the best. Watch, learn, emulate.

6. Permutate your words for better search engine optimisation.

SEO is a can of worms in quicksand. But you can boost your copy with basics. If you’re writing about marketing, weave in: market, marketer and marketed. For bonus points, add: buy, sell and promote (plus synonyms and variations). Some will work, some won’t, and you may never know. But it’ll do until you get an SEO expert.

7. Shun clich├ęs & empty promises.

Words that work elsewhere can have less, zero or negative effect online. Try to avoid:

  • Dear Friend
  • Free
  • Gift
  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Bonus
  • I’m interested
  • I’ve discovered
  • I want to help
  • Secret
  • Riches
  • Dream

8. Be a teacher, not a taker.

Despite what some salespeople promise, there’s no anonymous online horde eager to be force fed your message. Try it in Twitter and you’ll last two seconds. Today’s online industry captains are open, honest, courteous and grateful experts who impart valuable knowledge to an admiring, self-selected tribe. Let your writing cast you in this light.

9. Say everything as if it’s forever. Because it is.

The web has an infinite, permanent memory – as a growing list of staff and officials are finding to their cost. Before you write, picture your family, Candid Camera and a hostile press gallery. The time is nigh when your ‘resume’ will be every site you’ve seen and every thing you’ve said. So make every post a winner.

10. Write about what you know & love.

On the web, boredom is obvious and incompetence fatal. On the flip side, when you know something utterly and love it passionately, you can become a god in your field (or riche in your niche). The High Road of Truth is shorter and sunnier, with better views and more fun. Take it!

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