Writing for the web is different

A book I read when preparing for a writing class, The Web Content Style Guide, was published in 2001. Ten years may have made many web-bound materials obsolete; however, materials in this book still turn out to be relevant and useful guidelines for writing on the web.

Some key techniques discussed in this book:

  • Shorter is better. Documents intended for online reading should rarely be longer than 1,000 words. 
  • Be direct. In most web writing – especially business writing – the best way to begin is with the shortest and clearest statement you can make about your topic.
  • Write web headings and subheads
  • If you’re consistently writing paragraphs with more than 50 words, you should probably lighten up.
  • Keep your sentences simple and short

It amuses me a bit when reading the online excerpts of this book on the publisher’s website: it seems that some of the above-mentioned guidelines are not properly applied with these excerpts in the first place.

For instance, the author of the book advocates the use of subheads, which is a technique being echoed in some other, more current texts. This technique recommends that web writers use more subheads in their writings so that the readers can get a quick idea of the contents by just scanning for the group of heading and subheads. The subhead guideline itself is not being followed in the online excerpts of this book: there are few or no subheads in some really long parts.

In a separate post, I discussed some other specific techniques on writing online copies that are easy to follow and read.

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
This entry was posted in Writing for the web. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply