Writing for the Internet
People read a screen differently than they read a page, so simply typing out an article and posting it online won’t work. No one will read it. Fortunately, it is really easy to adapt an article to work online.
Be brief and very focused. Generally you have half the room online to tell your story than you would have on a printed page. People read 25% slower from a screen and many don’t read at all, they scan. In order to get the most important information across, consider the following tricks:
- Pick the most important information and focus on that. Cut out all unnecessary exposition.
- Highlight or link keywords and phrases
- Create sub-headings to stay focused
- Keep paragraphs to one idea
- Add bullet or numerical lists
- Use the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion
- Use less than half regular print word count
Easy to read
Anything you can do to make your article easier to read from a screen will increase its effectiveness. Break it up into small paragraphs and use subheadings and bulleted lists to make the article easy to scan. Remember that columns on a screen are narrower than the width of page so a medium length sentence on paper will look enormous on a screen. Try to simplify your language as much as possible and edit ruthlessly.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that grammar and spelling aren’t important. Write with the precision of a cover letter, just leave your thesaurus at home.
Be aware of the fold
“Above the fold” is a newspaper term that refers to front page content above where the paper is folded in half. In an online environment, it refers to content your viewer can see on one screen without having to scroll. The image shows an example of a fold on a computer screen. A person only sees the top part of an article. Make sure your best content and links are in this area. In articles, it is always best to have your first subheading appear above the fold to draw readers into the rest of the article.
Titles that get noticed
They say not to judge a book by it’s cover but for many people walking through a bookstore, that’s exactly what they do. A similiar thing happens with titles and taglines online. You only have a few seconds to convince the reader to choose your article. How do you get their attention?
The main thing is the difference between LABELING an article and INVITING someone to read it. Labeling tells you what the article is, the other tells you why you need it. The same elements that work in taglines can help make your article title that one that stands out.
- Use active language
- Suggest effortless solutions – we noticed words like easy, lazy, cheat, trick, miracle, stressfree
- Offer to let you join the club ex: Best secrets for flawless skin
- Use questions that include the answer ex: Cheat on your diet and still lose weight?
- Suggest an element of discovery ex: Our best beauty finds
- Use inspirational or transformational language ex: You can do it! Organize your home for the holidays
- Use words that exude a feeling ex: Cozy, comfortable
- Use superlative language ex: best, better, great, ultimate, greatest ever
- Often use exclamation points (but rarely more than one per cover)
- Suggest abundance ex: 20+ ideas for, 700+ Ways to get fit now
- Include a sense of immediacy ex: Get organized today, Delicious meals to cook tonight
Frequently used words:
- How to
Some of these words are more appropriate to specific topics than others but they’re all good things to keep in mind. Your reader wants to know what the article will do for them right now. Your title is a great place to tell them.