Writing for the web is completely different then writing for traditional media (McGovern, Norton, & O’Dowd, 2001). Different forms of online writing include articles, blogs, posts, and newsletters. I will discuss five tips for effective online writing according to Garry McGovern’s Writing for the Web.

Shorter Is Better

The challenge for the web writer is to overcome readers’ impatience by keeping things as brief as possible (McGovern, et al ., 2001). Readers often scan online text for headlines and subheading first. Next, they scan for hyperlinks, numerals, and keywords. Documents intended for online reading should rarely be longer than 1,000 words averaging 600 to 700 words (McGovern, et al ., 2001).  If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out (McGovern, et al ., 2001).

Be Direct

When writing for the web it is important to be direct. Readers are usually looking for information. Research shows that web readers scan pages before they read anything (McGovern, et al ., 2001). They may scan right past an article if it doesn’t have a straightforward heading or introduction that includes key words about the topic (McGovern, et al ., 2001).

Headlines

On the web, your headings are just as important as headlines in newspapers and magazines. People don’t begin to read your web article by accident. First they have to find it  (McGovern, et al ., 2001). Writing headlines is a craft. A good one makes the reader pay attention to the article. A bad heading will turn readers away. Studies have shown that when people use search engines they type one or two words and not phrases or sentences.

Web paragraphs are different

To make your articles efficient and attractive for online readers, you need to structure the writing. Among the most important elements of structure for online reading is paragraph length (McGovern, et al ., 2001). Different types of writing demand different average paragraph lengths. A standard web paragraph is 45 words.

Keep your sentences simple

Writing for the web should be reader friendly. Long sentences can distract the readers from their primary goal of finding information.  There are essentially three kinds of sentences for simple web writing. The simple sentence contains a verb and usually a subject (McGovern, et al ., 2001). The second is a compound sentence, which are two related simple sentences. The complex sentence is the third type that includes a dependent clause.

McGovern, G. , Norton R., & O’Dowd, C. (2001). Writing for the Web. The Web Content Style Guide, 2-12. 

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