These five guidelines present nothing revolutionary nor are they difficult to implement. Yet many websites structure their content poorly to the detriment of their site visitors.
1. George Orwell's 5 rules for effective writing
This might be cheating but Orwell's five rules for effective writing are timeless and can easily be applied to most written web content.
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print
- Never use a long word where a short one will do
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
- Never use the passive voice when you can use the active
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday equivalent
- Bonus: Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous!
2. Front-load content
Start with your conclusion. The first line of each paragraph should contain the conclusion for that paragraph, so site visitors can:
- Quickly scan through the opening sentence
- Instantly understand what the paragraph is about
- Decide if they want to read the rest of the paragraph or not
Front-loading also applies to web pages, as well as paragraphs. The opening paragraph on every page should always contain the conclusion of that page for the same reasons as above.
Use lists, they are great because they:
- Are easy to scan
- Are usually more succinct
- Allow users to read the information vertically rather than horizontally
- Are less daunting
- Make for good sharing, i.e. "Top 5 web writing tips"
4. Be personable
Try to use "you" rather than "we". Reach the audience by addressing them directly and make an effort try to display you or your companies personality through your written content.
5. Left-align text
Left-aligned text is easier to read than justified text, which in turn is easier to read than centre or right-aligned text.
When reading through justified text the spacing between each word is different so our eyes have to search for the next word. This slows down our reading speed. Right and centre-aligned paragraphs slow down reading speed even more because each time you finish reading one line your eye has to search for the beginning of the next line.
As a blog on web-writing this list is by no means exhaustive but should provide you with some guidelines to follow. If you want to learn more about how to improve your web content we run a web writing course for beginners
and an advanced course