Writing for the Web: Make Your Words Count

103 views
0

So, your boss said you have to write an article for an online audience. At first, you may feel excited and important; your valuable insights will be read by everyone. After a while though, you may begin to feel dread at the thought of completing the assignment. Your writing will be out there for anyone to read and judge—even people like Aunt Sally, who always corrects your grammar and writing.

Not to worry, there are some tricks to make the experience a success and one you want to repeat. Follow these handy tips to get your thoughts out there and impress everyone, even Aunt Sally.

Write your last point first

Make a point and put it first. Once you’ve figured out the main argument or lesson to share with the reader, fill in the content below it. Commonly called an inverted pyramid, lead with the most important point and details, followed by some additional information that may help the reader to understand, and finally toss in any supplemental materials that aren’t necessary. Rewrite all your paragraphs to have a main point followed by material that supports the first sentence.

Brevity is rule #1

Be succinct when you write online and use headers to break up your writing. After you have your first draft, reorganize your article under these headers. You may find you are repeating yourself, so cut out these extra sentences. Then work on tightening up your writing and making what’s left more fun to read.

Remove verbs in the passive voice and replace them with active verbs. Take out extra words that don’t add anything to your article. Use a thesaurus or online writing editor to pick a variety of different words, especially if you find you are repeating a word.

On the other side, do not edit so much that you lose your good writing. Make sure your article does not sound stilted and that that your key points are still supported. Try these tips to make your writing shine:

  • Read your article aloud. Does it sound like something you would say?
  • Write in different sentence lengths.
  • Make sure you have smooth transitions between sections and paragraphs.

Use a bit of P.T. Barnum with headers

No matter how brief you are, many people end up scanning articles. Since the headings are often the one thing that people read, make these headings stand out with a bit of marketing flair. Show a bit of your personal style in the way you break up your thoughts.

Titles and images are more important

People decide whether to read an article based on its title and the picture that goes with it. Without these, they may not get to your witty headers. Take the time to write a title that calls attention to your main point, but in a creative way. Even if your article is a formal piece you can still make it shine with a good title. People also connect with a good image. Get a great graphic to draw the reader to your article. Images are also necessary to post your article on social media.

Don’t forget the good writing techniques you learned in sixth grade

Good grammar and formatting are important in online writing, too. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Does everything support your main point?
  • Do all your sentences have a subject and verb? Do they all end with a period?
  • If you add bullets, is your article easier to read? (When you use a period at the end of one bullet, use a period on all of them.)
  • Did you use italics, bold, or underline? Remove italics unless it is grammatically correct, such as a title. Underlining indicates a hyperlink and should only be used to link to another website. Bold style shouts, so leave that out of your article.
  • Avoid exclamation points! That is, unless you want to be cute and break that rule.

Put your article away for another day

If you think you are done writing, put the article aside and come back again later and look at it with a fresh eye. You will often find you wrote a great base, but there is a more effective way to say what you are getting at. Plan to write several drafts before you are done.

Be prepared to write online

We all need to write online at some point in our career. Save these tips for the next time this task comes your way. Hopefully, it helps you write better and the whole experience makes you want to do it again. Don’t count your words. Instead, make your words count.

Author


  • Senior Technical Writer, Writing Department, CU*Answers

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *