Web text demands different kind of writing style

Most people read websites by scanning. That is, they don’t read every word but skim over the page, searching for words that are of interest to them. Once they find those words, their reading may slow to include every word, as if they were reading a magazine article or a novel.

Indeed, website visitors read only about 20% of the text per page, according to one study.

This then demands a different approach to writing than what you’d find in print (such as newspaper, magazines and books), where people are more likely to read a passage word for word. The challenge is to write as tightly and crisply as possible so that the website text is easy to scan through.

When writing for the web, follow these basic guidelines:
• Every word counts – Be succinct and specific by using fragments, short sentences and writing in the active voice. Every word used must carry useful information: Readers expect immediacy and utility when they come to a website.
• Bulleted points rock – Such points, like this list, are easier for website readers to scan.
• Create the tone that your reader would expect from your site – Visitors to a site for a party clown expect corny jokes. Visitors to a site for attorneys expect sophistication and no-nonsense professionalism. At the same time, you must be understandable … many people needing your service probably do because they don’t know much about what you’re the expert at.
• Short is better – Studies show that the idea word count for page is between 30 and 1,250 words. Any more and people typically skip the bulk of the text.
• Think search engine – Keywords must be included so that your website can be found on a search engine. With so many websites out there to choose from, you must embed in your web pages signposts that bring traffic to your site; those signposts are keywords. At the risk of being simplistic, if you sell T-shirts, that word needs to be in your text.