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Writing for the Web

Good writing is good writing, so many of the conventional rules still apply. But writing for the web presents a few challenges. These tips should help:

  • Use the “inverted pyramid”: Users tend to scan in an “F”-shaped pattern. Starting at the page title, they move left-to-write across the page. Their interest wanes as they scan vertically down the left side of the page. Using the inverted pyramid puts important information at the top, where readers are most engaged.
  • Keep it as short as possible: Readers have the attention span of a goldfish. They have a lot to do, and they’re often multitasking. Use engaging headlines to capture their interest and short paragraphs and bullet lists to hold their attention. Use as many words as you need, but no more.
  • “Chunk” your content: On the Web, users don’t read. They scan. To help them find the things they need, break up copy with appropriate subheadings.
  • Avoid “walls of text”: Break up long paragraphs where possible.
  • Use bullet lists: As users’ attention begins to wane (refer to the “F” shape), bullet lists can help them scan and refocus their attention. Keep in mind that this can be overused, so don’t make entire pages of bullet lists. Use them to follow up on short paragraphs of descriptive text.
  • Don't write like an academic. This can be a hard habit to kick especially at a university, but users don't have time to read a website like they would a research journal. Aim to write at a 12th-grade reading level and use readability checkers to measure your content.

Nielsen Norman Group is a great source for web writing tips.