Writing for the web: Keep it short, keep it simple.
September 14, 2005
In a nutshell:
When people surf the web, they have no time or patience to read long blocks of text – keep your writing simple and short.
Some basic tips:
- Use bullets to emphasize major points.
- Keep paragraphs about 7-10 words wide.
- Use lots of white space – give your pages lots of ‘breathing room’.
- Don’t do stupid things like having paragraphs that are all in italics or all bold.
- Make sure your text color is easy to read. For example: dark blue text on a black background is hard to read!
- Keep your text alignments consistent: don’t center align titles on one page, and then shove your titles to the left on another.
Basic writing tips:
- Keep sentences short and again, to the point. Tip: remove unnecessary words.
- Write as you would speak. This could be a problem if you’re a babbling fool …
- Read over what you have written 3 times.
I can recommend three great books on writing well:
Writing in Bullets: by Kim Long
A good little book that will teach you how to use bullets effectively – there’s more to it than you think.
On Writing Well: by William Zinsser
A classic book on the subject. Not so specialized as Writing in Bullets, it tackles writing from a global perspective.
The Elements of Style: by William Strunk Jr
Another classic. This book gets into the details of writing where you learn about things like:
- Commonly misused words and expressions
- Basic rules of composition
- And plain old good advice like: omit needless words
Sometimes it can be a little dry, but the book is packed full of great stuff – get it! Actually, you should get all these books – it’s not like they’re expensive!