10 Principles of Better Web Writing

Jerry WalchStarred Page By Jerry Walch, 29th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Writing

The people who visit our web posts are working people. People come to our web pages looking for answers to a pressing need. They're not willing to read pages of superfluous words to get that answer. We develop a following by giving our readers what they are searching for. We can help our readers better as web writers if we understand the 10 principles I’m about to reveal to you.

Introduction

The first thing that I learned thirty-something years ago when I was bitten by the writer's bug was that to be successful I had to understand the people that I was writing for. I was spinning my wheels if I submitted an article on how to rebuild a Chevrolet small-block engine to a magazine devoted to young mothers looking for information on how to care for their newborn. OK, that's an extreme example, not even a rank beginner would make that mistake, but it clearly illustrates my point. Know your readers. Know what they look for when they visit your pages. Give them what they want and they will keep coming back for more.

1 Brevity is the corner stone to success.

Don't waste your readers time, that should be your first guiding principle for successful web writing. Get to the point quickly. Don't use fifty words to explain something that can be explained adequately using twenty words.

2 Don't make your web article a work of obfuscation.

OK, I'm probably guilty of obfuscation for some of my readers. I did it on purpose to illustrate my point here. I could have subtitled this section “Practice Clarity in your writing style, don't confuse your readers.” The word “Obfuscate” means confuse. Why use language that may send some of your readers reaching for a dictionary when you could have used an ordinary word that everyone understands? Your goal isn't to add a new word to your reader's vocabulary but to provide them with information that they can use on the subject you're writing about. The second principle to writing for the web is “Clarity.” Always write with clarity.

3 It's all about communicating with your readers.

Besides the principle of writing with clarity, we need to practice all the principles of sound communications. There's a terrific deal that I could write about in this section, but I'll only cover a couple of point here.

First, don't assume that your reader may possess knowledge that he or she may not have. That was one of the biggest hurdles that I had to overcome when I switched from writing fiction to writing for the DIY markets. I still struggle with it from time to time. Always include all the information a reader needs to understand what you are writing about.

Second, write with an active voice. Use a lot of actionable verbs to start your sentences whenever possible. Try to keep the passive voice to a minimum in your articles. I try to keep my passive expressions to less than 5 percent of my total word count.

Third, always provide your reader with everything that he or she needs without sending him or her to another web page.

4 Write with emphasis.

Emphasize the most salient words by placing them at the end of your clauses or sentences. Placing them in this position of strength causes them to reverberate in the reader's mind as he or she pauses between clauses or sentences.

5 Practice honesty and integrity

Abraham Lincoln once said,”You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Be honest with your readers. Don't present yourself to be someone or something that you aren't. Don't claim to have knowledge or credentials that you don't have. Your lies will catch up to you. Sooner or later, someone will check your credentials and if you don't honestly have that degree or that certification that you said you had, your credibility is history.

6 Passion versus control

Every Web Content Writer must possess passion. He or she must be passionate about writing. A writer must be passionate about the subject that he or she is writing about. But unbridled passion can also be a writers worse enemy. Too much uncontrolled passion can destroy a writers objectivity. Passion must always be tempered with control. Every successful writer finds a balance between the two.

7 Read, Read, Read

As children, we learned to talk by listening to adults and older children talking. The principle is the same. We learn to write for publication by reading what other successful authors have published. A writer must read widely, not just in the genre he or she writes in. Back in the day when every writer wrote for print publications, we were admonished to subscribe to and read the publications that we submitted to on a regular basis. We learned the publications editorial style by reading. We learned how published author approached different subjects and how they presented the information. By subscribing to, and reading the magazines we submitted to, we learned what had already been published by a publication. That save us and editors time because we didn't query them on something they had already published. For the same reasons, we need to research what has already been published on the web about a subject. For you web article to get read, it has to be unique.

8 Revise, Revise, Revise

If I may paraphrase a Thomas Alva Edison quote, “Genius is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration,” writing is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration. It's easy for a writer to come up with things to write about but turning those ideas into publishable manuscripts takes real, hard work. How many times should you revise/edit a manuscript? The first draft, the really rough draft, is simply to get your idea down on paper. The first revision is to add missing material and to edit out superfluous material. The second revision is to check and rearrange the order in which the material is presented. The third revision is to check for and correct typos and misspelled words. The fourth revision is to correct grammar and punctuation. The fifth revision, as a rule, will produce your final draft, the one ready for submission.

9 Make use of technology but don't leave the human element out of the editing equation.

Spell checkers and grammar checkers are time savers but don't rely on them completely. You need to proofread everything you write or have someone you trust proofread it for you. Spell checkers will not catch a word that is spelled correctly but not the right word i.e. then and than. Grammar checkers are time savers too, but many of them have trouble handling tech speak. Use them but make the final proofreading a human one.

10 Breaking the rules

There will be times when you will need to break the rules, but you need to learn the rules and know the correct way to apply them before you can break them creatively.

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Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 71 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

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Comments

author avatar James R. Coffey
29th Oct 2010 (#)

Outstanding!

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author avatar TheMovieScene
29th Oct 2010 (#)

So many true, points especially when it comes to point 8. Something I would like to add, a point 11 which is specific to those writing online, is to learn to accept criticism. It maybe hard to take when someone points out an issue with something you wrote but sometimes advise offered in the form of constructive criticism can be invaluable to growing as a successful web writer.

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author avatar Retired
30th Oct 2010 (#)

Jerry no doubt this is meant for me! great work,
and all so true,
themoviescene has it right-- point 11 is a great one=)

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author avatar Retired
30th Oct 2010 (#)

Excellent article Jerry. I stumbled it, tweeted it and FB it. thanks for sharing :)

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author avatar Jerry Walch
30th Oct 2010 (#)

Thank you Petra, Rebecca, themoviescene, James.

Themoviescene has it right. I should have mentioned criticism and rejections. That was a sin of omission :-(( on my part. Back in the day we had t deal with the dreaded written rejection slips. The ones we dreaded the most were the pre-printed ones without any personal details added. Good editors always took the time to add a personal note to amplify on what ever the stock rejection letter said. Once a writer got past the hurt, he or she learned a great deal from the rejection letters

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
30th Oct 2010 (#)

for me I have a hard time with brevity, my wife often helps me edit because I can get long winded and stray off topic.
good tips.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
30th Oct 2010 (#)

Thanks Mark.

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author avatar Denise O
4th Nov 2010 (#)

I have found number 7 to be the best gift that was ever given to me. It has helped me in so many ways...
Reading others work.
All great tips for sure.
Great job as always.
Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar j.m. raymond
22nd Nov 2010 (#)

Jerry, great stuff!Excellent tips for DIYs and how tos.

Now, about that "how to rebuild a Chevrolet small-block engine..." - Got anything on a Dodge Dakota?

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author avatar Jerry Walch
22nd Nov 2010 (#)

Sorry J.M. I have nothing on a Dodge Dakota, but I'll see what I can dig up for you :-))

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author avatar Greenfaol
28th Jan 2011 (#)

Not sure how I missed this one, great tips, great read, thanks for that :D

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author avatar Jerry Walch
29th Jan 2011 (#)

Welcome Norma.

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author avatar Katrina
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

This is a wonderful article. Congrats on getting star page.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
3rd Feb 2012 (#)

Thanks, Katrina. Will check with Sam on that other request.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
8th Nov 2013 (#)

This is a good one, Jerry!

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