Characteristics of Excellent Web Writing - HTML

Once you’ve drawn your readers in, you need to keep them. There are several general guidelines to follow, many of them established through Jakob Nielsen’s usability studies. Others have cropped up over the years (when 40 million or so Web pages are up and running at the same time, there’s a good chance some people have come to some conclusion about how Web development works).

Be concise
Most likely, whatever takes you 200 words to write can probably be done in 100. If your budget allows, hire a professional writer, but if it doesn’t, be prepared to trim your writing thoroughly. Keep in mind the impatience of your readers, and remember that there is a good reason they’re impatient—the written word on computer monitors is difficult on the eyes.

Creating easily scanned web pages
Since users are scanning your pages anyway, make it easy for them by doing the following:

  • Use the strong tag or colored text (but not blue, unless it’s for a hyperlink) to highlight keywords and a bold face font to highlight key points and words.
    Generally, readers who scan can only pick up two or three words at a time, so don’t highlight entire sentences. You should also highlight words that are directly associated with topics of each page or section.
  • Highlight words that differentiate one page from another page.
  • Use the em element to render italics for figure captions or when you want to introduce a word that needs to be defined. You can also use this element to add emphasis to a specific word that doesn’t warrant highlighting.
  • When you need to highlight entire sentences, use bulleted and numbered lists, which slow down the scanning eye and draw attention to important points.

Maintaining credibility
Your Web site’s credibility is absolutely crucial to your long-term success. Part of achieving credibility is avoiding marketing hype, and another part is making sure that your content is accurate. If you do make claims about your service or products, back them up somehow. One way to do that is to create informative case studies that detail how your products or services have helped others achieve specific goals that they may not have been able to reach without your help. You can also employtestimonials, but tread lightly here, and avoid falling into the trap of marketing hype. Any testimonials you use should be informative and useful.

Maintaining objectivity
Try to maintain objectivity, even though your Web site is about you, your services, or your products. You might even want to include some information about who shouldn’t use your service or product, if appropriate. This greatly enhances your credibility with readers.

Maintaining focus and limiting verbosity
Keep your focus on your Web site by avoiding any tendency to provide unnecessary detail and by keeping paragraphs limited to one main idea. Remember that it doesn’t take much for a Web site user to stray away from your Web page.Keep a consistent style throughout your Web site. In other words, try to make sure your Web site has one “voice.”

Writing in a top-down style
When a newspaper reporter develops a story, he or she will start with the most important topic and drill down as the story goes on. The reason for this dates back to the old days of newspaper printing when editors often had to snip articles wherever necessary to fit them within the space. Since these decisions were made quickly under the heat of a print deadline, reporters developed a style of article and news story writing that made the decisions on where to cut off a story easy. The details of a story were left for the end. The key points were made at the outset.

Because readers are the ultimate editors, certain aspects of this idea have been ported to the Web. You should develop your Web site in a top-down manner (also called pyramid style), because readers will also cut your story off quickly if they don’t find relevant subject matter.

One difference between print pyramid style andWeb pyramid style is that on theWeb, you should show your conclusions first, and then begin the top-down writing style.You can mimic print articles in this way by making your headline your conclusion.

Another difference betweenWeb and print pyramid style writing is that, as mentioned earlier, readers tend to read in chunks. This can affect the top-down approach somewhat, because you can’t assume a reader has read the first part of an article.


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