I do a lot of writing for clients both for the internet and for product sheets and brochures. A different style is needed when writing something that is primarily going to be read on screen. This applies even more so these days as the number of people reading content on mobile phones and tablets increases. You need to be very clear and incredibly concise. Nobody wants to have to scroll down forever to read tons of paragraphs.
9 internet writing tips
- Omit inverted “commas” mid sentence– there is very limited use for these outside of quoting people. Don’t overuse other types of punctuation either
- Do not capitalise words mid-sentence eg Mobile, Tablet – these are not proper nouns and therefore should use lower case
- Use the word and rather than & or +
- Online is not hyphenated, neither is email
- Company is singular ie Eircom does, or Eircom is (not are). This is the most common mistake made by companies of all sizes. I see it daily. So is team. And (spotted 14 Oct 14) #Google, so is data
- Try use and or or rather than /
- Full stops are not necessary in shortened words. Eg rather than e.g., PC rather than P.C.
- Although I still haven’t gotten used to it, there is now only one space after a full stop instead of two
- Be firm and positive: Use Our product does (or whatever verb) rather than is designed to. There is an implication in is designed to that it’s supposed to do something, but that in fact, it might not. Be clear, concise and confident
Make sure that you use words that everybody understands. This is particularly relevant if your readers aren’t native speakers. Don’t use industry jargon. Not everybody is as absorbed in your product as you are. It is also best to mix paragraphs with bullets as bullets are easy to skim over.
- Use he or she or even they (alternate them) rather than he/she. On some occasions, deletion of he/she will still make grammatical sense. The best option is to rephrase so as not to use he/she at all
- Keep sentences as short as possible – in as few words as possible for example: “View what work is coming up” is better as “View upcoming work”
- Capital letters IMPLIES SHOUTING – don’t use them
- Underline implies a hyperlink – don’t use it
- List the examples rather than use etc or and so on. Your visitors are not as immersed in your products as you are and so it won’t be as obvious to them as it is to you
- Be careful on the use of it’s – it means it is
- In Europe we capitalise only the first word of headlines (and proper nouns of course). In the US, every word in the heading tends to be capitalised. We leave that over-capitalisation to our US friends, together with the zeds! And yes, even here, WordPress is telling me capitalise is spelt incorrectly!
- Use hyperlinks to other pages on your site and even other sites
- Use descriptive sub headings (also helps with SEO) to separate content
Finally, ensure that paragraphs aren’t too long. Five lines is usually enough before eyes start to glaze over. Here’s a longer article that I completely agree with in terms of internet writing tips.
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