Writing for the web: Keep it short, keep it simple.

September 14th, 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:

  • Form
  • 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!

CIAO,

Stefan Mischook

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