Writing for the Web

Keyword: . I have a mantra that I repeat whenever talking about writing on the Web: brevity, scannability, interactivity.

The first – brevity – comes in the writing: write in short sentences, in short paragraphs that each only cover one concept. This not only helps the person reading on-screen, but also helps them scan the article for the salient points.

Scannability comes when you edit the article: break it up with subheadings where you can; use bullet or numbered lists where appropriate. Again, this helps the reader find what they want to without having to concentrate too hard.

Interactivity at its most simple level comes at the end of the article: links. At the least, link to your sources; at the best, link to where your reader might want to go next: related articles, definitions, places to donate, places to contribute or discuss. You should imagine yourself in their place and anticipate their needs.

A good exercise is to take a particularly cumbersome, badly edited article, and edit it for the web. Thanks to one of my students for introducing me to this one from the Jewish Post website.

This fails on every count. Brevity? Try overlong pars. Scannability? Fat chance – no subheadings, and the article is spread over several pages with no signposting as to which page you’re on. Interactivity? A massive opportunity wasted, with no links – and this is an article that could have linked to organisations, more depth on the issues involved, further articles – the list goes on.

So here’s my challenge: edit the aforementioned article and post it on your blog – then post your link as a comment on this posting.

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