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.