The Scanning Reader
Writing for the Web is a bit different than writing for print. The differences are slight but very significant. First, people don’t really read online, they scan because of what is called the “flicker rate” of computer monitors. This means people read 25% slower online than in print publications. What does this mean for you as a writer? That you have to write differently to connect with readers.
Begin at the End
Writing for the Web is like good journalism. Always use the old "Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How" journalistic formula when writing for the web. This is called the inverted pyramid. Place your conclusion at the beginning and then write the details. The Web is a grab-it-and-go and give-it-to-me-now informational medium. You have to connect with the readers immediately or you lose them.
Since the reader is scanning instead of reading, you have to break your text down into bite size portions. You’ll notice this article has short, chunky paragraphs. Each paragraph only needs 75 words or less. This allows for plenty of white space surrounding the text and provides for comfortable reading.
Chunky writing takes some practice but it is actually quite easy to do. When you write chunky, create strong headlines and subheadings. Make your main points and move the reader along. Also, use short bulleted or numbered lists like this:
See how the text opens right up and moves along?
- More numbers
- Still more numbers
Sail the High Cs
There are four C words you need to keep in mind when writing for the Web:
- Concise -
Write tight and keep it short. Remove all unnecessary words.
- Clear -
Use precise words. Always get specific and avoid using generalizations.
- Clean -
Avoid excessive clutter in your writing. Avoid using too many –ly words and use “that” sparingly, if at all.
- Credible -
Write with honesty and integrity. Nothing is wrong with marketing but readers usually recognize slick, manipulative tactics. Write from your heart, even in advertising, and you will reach readers.
Keep It Simple Sweetheart! Never, ever insult your readers’ intelligence. But at the same time, write in simple terms and your readers will love you for it. And they will continue reading what you write. Every writer needs a good vocabulary, but that doesn’t mean it should be used to make readers feel unlearned or uneducated.
The bottom line: Keep it simple, encourage and inform your readers with short, clear, crisp writing. Then you will enjoy much success as a great web writer!
About the author:
Glenn White is a freelance writer, editor, and content manager at his web site for Inspirational and Christian writers at
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