If you intend to publish written content on your website (articles, essays, etc.), you need to know how to write for the Web.
I wrapped up last week’s episode with a discussion on fonts and formatting written content for the Web. The trick is to format written content so that it doesn’t discourage people from reading.
Writing for the Web is typically more difficult for good writers. Many of the textbook rules for writing get thrown out the window.
It’s important to remember that most people don’t read on the Web. They scan. Reading on a computer screen is not comfortable and distractions abound on the Internet.
Writing posts people will read
1) Use dark text on a light background.
Keep this in mind when choosing a theme for your website. It’s hard enough to read on a computer screen. Light text on a dark background only makes it that much harder (and less likely they will).
2) Keep your posts short.
I recommend somewhere between 500-700 words in length. (WordPress actually shows you the word count as you type.) People become intimidated by longer posts and don’t bother to read them.
3) Keep your paragraphs short.
Keep them at a maximum of 3-4 lines each. Ideally, I shoot for 1-2 lines. It’s psychologically rewarding to a reader when he/she gets to the end of each paragraph and it motivates them to continue reading.
4) Limit each paragraph to one idea.
Since people scan posts, multiple ideas in a paragraph might get missed. One idea per paragraph also helps to keep paragraphs short.
5) Keep your sentences short.
Avoid compound sentences. The faster a person reads a sentence, the more likely he/she will continue reading.
6) Use contractions and eliminate unnecessary words.
Avoiding contractions might be wise when writing for a magazine or newspaper, but not for the Web. If you can use less words to convey the same idea, use less words. It makes for an altogether shorter post.
7) Don’t use words people need a dictionary to understand.
The goal is to make reading your content easy and quick for people. Talking like a dictionary will not help. People will give up on your posts.
8) Use sub-headings to divide the content.
Since people will scan your posts anyway, you might as well make it easier for them. Sub-headings throughout the post give them a better idea of what they’re about to read and encourage them to do so.
9) Make lists when possible.
People love lists because they are easy to scan. For instance, 11 tips for writing posts people will actually read tends to be more popular than Writing posts people will actually read.
10) Have no more than 75 characters per line.
Use the Golden Ratio Typography Calculator to determine how large your font needs based on your content’s width. Between 50-75 characters per line is recommended with adequate line space.
11) Keep content space relatively narrow.
If you keep the width of your content space narrow, you won’t need as large of a font. Exceeding 600 pixels in width means your font will need to be 15 pixels or bigger. It can look tacky if too large.
Two ways to write titles and headlines
First, you could write search-friendly titles. Some titles perform better in Internet searches (i.e. Google) because of keywords in them.
…For example, What is the unforgivable sin?
Second, you could write social-friendly titles. Some titles perform better on social networks and cause people to click when shared.
…For example, The unforgivable sin is not what you think
If you’re really good, you could write titles that serve both well. Posts with lists tend to be effective on both fronts.
…For example, 12 mistakes of a dying church