There are many types of online writing because—even online—there are many types of readers. There are still readers who will read for pleasure (blogs, ebooks, etc.) and for them, long, prosey text is appropriate. But for marketing/sales text, there are a few guidelines you will be wise to follow as you write.
Follow these guidelines to avoid repelling your online browsers and up your chances of converting your readers into buyers of your product or message (this doesn’t just mean spending actual money, but it means persuading your readers to your cause or point of view).
9 Tips to Write Compellingly Online
- Pay special attention to headlines
- State your main point first
- Keep paragraphs short
- Convert any type of series into a list, bulleted or numbered
- Parallel lists only
- Online copy can be personal; use I, you, and we
- Use active, not passive, voice
- To exude authority, use the imperative
- Use hyperlinks, bolded text, and italics to highlight important keywords and phrases.
Your readers will scan this first before reading anything else, so pretending that the headline is all they’ll read, what information do you want them to walk away with? This information should be in the headline.
Give Your Main Point Priority
Don’t lollygag when you’re getting to your main point. Your readers won’t have the patience to wait. Jump right into the meat of your post and starting talking about what’s important.
No Long Paragraphs
You want your page to be both scannable and welcoming. Blocky paragraphs are intimidating and unattractive to your busy readers. If you keep your paragraphs short and palatable, you won’t go wrong.
If you find yourself list out anything in a sentence, convert to an actual list to make it more scannable. The eyes love consuming lists so give your readers what they like to look at. Keep your lists parallel.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Personal
You only want to avoid informally addressing your readers if you’re writing something official or academic, and even then there may be exceptions. Think about what’s appropriate for your audience and make the call on your own. They are after all, your audience.
The passive voice is a drag and has a tendency to get boring. Don’t get stuck using phrases like “Mistakes were made” or “a fire was started.” What this does is remove the subject of the sentence and introduces ambiguity. Keep your text direct.
Use the imperative to create an impression of authority and action. This means giving commands and writing with confidence.
Highlight Important Text
Italicize, bold, or better yet, hyperlink your keywords and other important phrases that you want to stick out to your readers. The hyperlinks should go to related posts on content on your site or blog.
Questions or comments? Drop a line in the comments below!
Nordquist, Richard. “Twelve Tips for Improving Online Writing.”http://grammar.about.com/od/improveyourwriting/a/OnlineWriting.htm. (January 30, 2015.)