You know that web writing is a lot different from print writing.
It’s because web readers are different from print readers.
Why is that, though? What makes web readers different?
Is it because they skim content before reading it (and many times they never read the full content)? Is it because they read headlines first to determine whether the content is any good? Is it because their attention spans are shorter than ever? Or is it a combination of all three?
If you said the last option, congratulations: you’re right.
The fact is: if you want your web writing to be effective web writing, you need to ensure that it follows all the correct requirements which web readers love. But what are they, anyway? Let’s see!
Web readers have short attention spans, and they’re getting shorter
Web readers have short attention spans. That’s nothing new. But they’re getting shorter than ever. So what should you, the web content writer do? Make your content more concise. A web reader reads your content because he needs to find a specific bit of information, therefore he skims the content. He’s not going to sit around and read your article word-for-word.
Takeaway: make it easier for the reader to skim and scan your content. Read on to find out how exactly to do it.
Web readers love headings and subheadings
It’s no secret that headlines are important. The thing we have to do is clear: make our headlines great. Some specific types of headlines such as “How to do [task]”, “7 ways to [task]”, etc. may be old now, but they still work brilliantly.
So headlines are covered. But what about subheadings? The article you’re reading now has them. They’re extremely vital as they make the reader’s task to grab information easier. You, as the writer, should make subheadings clear (clarity is better than ambiguity), irresistible and they should achieve their main task: make the reader read on.
Tip: the more subheadings the better. But use them only if you need to (you’re not going to use them if you have an excessively short piece of content).
Web readers love short paragraphs
In school, we were taught paragraphs. One idea per paragraph. So why is that even on the web, where short paragraphs matter more than ever, people write one giant block of text with anything and everything squeezed in it? It puts the reader off and is detrimental to the writer.
On the web, short paragraphs work well with the short attention spans and the tendency to scan content, since they’re easier to scan. (Looking for a particular sentence or phrase from a paragraph? Which one would you find easier to skim: the long one or the short one? Short, of course). I’m not completely against long paragraphs, as they may do fine once in a while, but on the web, they’re best avoided. (Note: if you’re talking about short and shorter paragraphs, it’s good idea to use both to break the monotony).
Web readers prefer short sentences
Short sentences are in. Twitter accepts only 140 characters. Some other blogging and microblogging services do the same. This is a continuation of the previous point. Short paragraphs are great. Same goes for short sentences. But there’s no harm in using a long sentence sometimes when you need it, and when you can actually handle it (see what I did there?). Use longer sentences sparingly. The best thing to do is keep all things moderate (even extremely short, one-word sentences).
Web readers prefer lists (just as long as they’re done right)
People say lists are overdone. That’s not the case. Bad lists are overdone. On the web you’re going to find lots of list articles and lists in general which are badly written and edited. But a good list doesn’t have those characteristics. A list, as long as it is relevant, well-written and concise can be more preferable than blocks of paragraphs on the web. Why? It depends on the content, but again, lists are easier to scan, easier to read, and easier to act on.
A combination of paragraphs and lists works great as well, so experiment with what works best for you!
Web readers prefer great content
It all comes back to square one. You can have headlines, subheadlines, short paragraphs, short sentences with the occasional long one thrown in, lists, etc etc. But if the content isn’t good, nothing will work. If the idea sucks, everything will suck.
Above all, what web readers prefer is great content. If you can’t write well, then it doesn’t matter if you write on the web or in print, the result will always be the same: no readers.
Web writing which satisfies web readers is effective web writing
Good writing is effective writing. So if web readers like your web writing, then and only then will it be effective. And then and only then will your web writing become great web writing.
Conclusion: Write something which the reader cares about, in a way and format (short paragraphs, headings etc.) which makes him go on and read it.
Have your say
Congratulations, you’ve arrived at the end of this article! Did you skim through it or read every word? How was it? Good? Concise? Rambling, in spite of all the effort I made? Only you can tell. So whatever you have to tell me, go on and say it in the comments section.
Don’t forget to read Writing Tips: How to Write Better if you want to become a great writer, and don’t forget to get your free updates from Writers’ Treasure here.