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How to Write for an Online Audience

Scott Snowden
Scott Snowden
Business & Technology Strategy
Write to Scott

Ernest Hemingway's rules of writing recommend short sentences and positive language - while his rules still apply, the way we read the web is completely different from how we read printed information. It is critical to keep this in mind while preparing content for your website. Follow this guide to write as effectively as possible for your audience.

There are a few general tips that apply to all online audiences. Internet users consume online information by:

  1. Scanning first, reading later (if at all).
  2. Foraging for information, searching for facts and straight-talk.
  3. Using their mobile devices more than half the time.

These constants allow us to form a set of rules that can (and should) always be followed when creating written content in order to take advantage of how people use the web.

  • Make use of headings and subheadings.
  • Use lists to hold attention longer.
  • Write “in a nutshell" paragraphs.
  • Limit each paragraph to one idea.
  • Choose predictable, plain language.
  • Show numbers as numerals.
  • Write short paragraphs; large blocks of text get ignored.
  • Don't shy away from the power of white space.
  • Provide links for the “Type A” visitor.

These have been the best practices for a while on the web, but these days it is most important to think mobile-first. Over 60% of users are looking at your site on a mobile device, where they read slower and have smaller screens. Consider leaving out "secondary" content that will clutter the screen for these users.

If you're still struggling with writing your content, drop us a line. We're experts at creating and reviewing content and structure to optimize audience experience.

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