Tips for Internet writing

Writing for the Internet is a bit different than writing for print.  That holds true whether you’re writing an article for an online publication or content for a company’s Web site.   And while print publications are shrinking, online usage is increasing, even in the down-turned economy.  A Pew Internet and American Life Project study found that 63 percent of adult Americans have broadband Internet now, which is up 15 percent from just a year ago.

With so many users out there, writing well online is vital to getting your content read.  A few tips can make your Internet writing more successful.

First, remember that readers have to concentrate harder to read text on a computer screen versus on a printed page. While a 2,500-word feature article might work well in a print publication, chances are most Internet readers won’t plow through it.  To add to this issue is the fact that reading on a computer screen often feels like work to most users.  After all, many people sit in front a computer all day long for work and they often don’t want to continue reading on a computer after hours.

Second, know that online readers are skimmers. You may be skimming through this post.  I know I skim online.  Using subheads, bullet points and other such devices can draw readers in to your main points.  If you have enough good points, then skimmers will take time to read the entire piece.

Third, utilize the inverted pyramid. The inverted pyramid style of writing is starting with the most important information at the beginning and working down in priority from there.  Inverted pyramids work well for Internet writing because you may only get your reader to read the first couple of paragraphs, so you want to give them enough information to draw them in.  Creative leads don’t work as well online.  People want to know exactly what they’re getting up front when they are reading online.

Fourth, keep it simple. Internet writing is not the place for extra long sentences and words.  Overall, simple sentence structure and vocabulary geared to an eighth or ninth grade level is preferred.  Think similarly to your local newspaper.  Concise writing is vital for effective online writing.

Fifth, emphasize key words, but don’t get too crazy with them. You definitely want to use key words that Internet search engines will pick up on, but you don’t want to go so crazy with them as to drive your readers crazy and interfere with your message.

Finally, include related links. If you refer to another online article in your piece or are quoting a study, then link to it.  Readers are definitely more wary of information they read online and want to be able to confirm it.  You don’t want to include a link for every other word or even every paragraph, but a few well placed links really do add to your credibility.

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