Good online writing gets right to the point, reads fast, and reads well out loud. Strive to include as many of the hallmarks of good writing for digital media as possible:
• Informal, friendly, conversational style
• Warm, personal, upbeat tone
• Ultra-conciseness: no excess words or thoughts
• Minimal (or no) adjectives and adverbs (very, extremely, totally, innovative)
• Minimal clutter words (in order to, as a matter of fact, at this point in time)
• Lively action-oriented verbs in the present tense
• Short, simple, everyday words (mostly one syllable)
• Free of jargon, mystery abbreviations, and clichéd business-speak
• Short sentences: 1 to 12 words on average with few clauses (as signaled by commas)
• Short paragraphs: one to three sentences
• A good rhythm that pulls readers along
Sentences can begin with words like and, but, and or. Or they can consist of a single word: Never. Ask. Maybe. Why? Sentences like these can effectively punctuate copy and make it feel lively.
Keeping it simple and visual
If you’re targeting general audiences, stay short and simple by stashing complexities elsewhere. Or keep them in a separate section. Of course, exceptions abound. For example, you may pinpoint an audience that specifically likes technical material or sophisticated thinking.
Long-form blogs are generally more widely read and valued than short ones. And if you’re trying to establish thought leadership through opinion pieces, treat your subjects in depth.
Acknowledge your skimmers and speed readers by finding ways to present information telegraphically, at-a-glance rather than a narrative. Descriptions and technical specs lend themselves well to this approach. Use introductory phrases to summarize long lists of information and help readers move more quickly through the complex material:
- Product suited to:
- Kit includes:
- Caring for your item:
- How to reserve your place:
Bulleted lists work well. But don’t make those lists too long or present them without context. Start each item with the same grammatical part so that they read consistently.
What about humor?
If you can write content with a sense of fun or surprise, good for you. Often such material is hard work that talented teams labor over for weeks, months, and even years. If you’re a writer, of course, you want to showcase your skills. But for most websites and other content, good substance presented in a down-to-earth, easy-to-absorb way works just fine. If you have a gift for spontaneity and charm, by all means, use it. But try your experiments out on your friends before launching them into digital orbit.