12 Useful Tips for Writing for the Web

Last Update: December 08, 2012


I haven't blogged here at Wealthy Affiliate since it became the Open Education Project so I figured that it was about time I did something.

I have been reading member blogs and there are some really amazing content in here. With every read, I'm inspired to share content of my own. I hope that you will find something useful that helps you in your endeavors.

One of the things that I've noticed while reading is that some people (perhaps beginners), make some crucial mistakes when it comes to writing.

These mistakes can be a huge turnoff to the reader (as they are to me) and if you're doing it on your websites then it can cost you your end goal, whatever that may be ie. affiliate sales.

In this blog post, I'm going to share twelve useful tips that you can use to improve your writing for the internet.

1. Your Headline Matters

There is nothing more frustrating than publishing some killer content and then nobody reads it. Getting the headline right is a good start since this is the first thing readers see.

Your headline is shown in search engines, in your blog archives, on Facebook when someone shares your content and in notification emails among other places.

If the headline doesn't grab the readers attention, they won't click the link to read your article.

Two articles from within the community can help you create winning headlines:
  1. How Content Headlines Can Affect Your Conversion (Magistudios)
  2. Write Compelling Headlines To Attract More Readers (BIS)

2. Get To the Point

Most people would rather not read your article. It's true and ironic since they're looking for information.

Web users are known to scan instead of reading. So it's best to cut the fluff and get straight to the point. Give the reader what they want immediately and they'll keep reading.

I can't remember who it was but someone once put out this formula for making article writing easy.
  1. Tell them what you're about to tell them
  2. Tell them
  3. Tell them what you just told them.
Simple advice but effective.

3. Break Up Your Paragraphs

This is the one that irks me the most.

Trying to read a huge block of text with no breaks can be a real task. Just looking at it can be overwhelming by itself. I usually don't even try but rather feel compelled to tell the writer what they're doing wrong.

If you've ever read a children's story book, you would see how easy they are to read. These books usually have one or two sentences on a page with pictures and you could get through them very quickly.

Something I learned way back about writing for the web is that you should write very short paragraphs. These should be kept at two or three short sentences maximum and even one sentence paragraphs work well.

4. Add Photos to Help Break Up Text

Breaking up your paragraphs is just one of the things you can do to create white space in your articles. White space makes your articles more readable so the more white space you have the better.

Adding a relevant photo to your article can further help break up text and promote white space.

You can also add illustrations, video, maps (where applicable) and other types of visual media.

Photos aren't that hard to find but make sure you have to proper rights to use them. Avoid direct linking other people's photos and remember that you probably own a camera or smartphone.

Read: Where To Find Images For Your Website (BIS)

5. Formatting Tips

Another way to create white space and help the reader to scan your content is to include some formatting. You should try using that bar at the top of the editing window for a lot more than for bolding and italicizing words.

Try these:
  • Add bullet points
  • use sub-headings with H2 or H3
  • Add block quotes even if it's just to quote yourself.
  • insert graphics where necessary
  • Multi-page articles work too (like the training here at WA)

6. Check Your Spelling & Grammar

You'll look less of an expert if your articles are riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. Especially spelling mistakes.

Run spell check or try to find out why there is a red squiggly underline below some of the words on the page. Spell check isn't always perfect but it can help you catch a lot of mistakes or with words you're unsure of.

7. Conquer Words That Cause Confusion

Spell check will not catch everything though.

For example, "loose" is a word but it does not belong in "How To Loose Weight During the Holidays".

This is one of my pet peeves and I can't help but shake my head every time I see articles that are effected by the fact that they should be using one word but they use another.

Do any of these words confuse you?

8. Avoid Text Speak

Text speak was invented as a shorthand for typing certain words faster on instant messaging or via text messages.

It isn't necessary to do this in your articles otherwise you risk alienating your audience or insulting their intelligence. IDK to a computer techie may be "Interface Development Kit".

Text speak can be fun but they were made for an entirely different platform other than web articles. Don't write "2" when you can write "to".

Feel free to use them in the comment section.

9. Punctuation Problems

Some writers either use too much punctuation or they don't use enough.

An example of too much punctuation would be "Stop what you're doing!!!!!!!!!!!!"

You really only need one exclamation mark to get the point across. Ellipses should only be three dots like this...

Any more and you're asking me to literally fill in a form.

Too little punctuation is missing full stops which is a common error I keep seeing. You should read your articles out loud and you'll more than likely catch these.

10. CAPSLOCK IS SHOUTING!

Your audience does not need to be shouted at. This isn't something I see much in articles but in community settings like forums and comment sections.

Writing in all caps is equated to shouting online. It's loud and annoying and hard to read if there is a lot. It does stand out, which might be the intention of the user, but not in a good way.

11. Encourage Reader Engagement

You want your reader to interact with what you wrote. Comments and sharing are two types of engagement we could all use.

This can have several benefits for us and also the reader
  • it can reduce bounce rates
  • it can encourage others to also comment or share
  • social engagement is a key factor in Google's rankings
  • it can increase your traffic with the right share
  • it can improve your SEO rankings with the right comment
You can encourage reader engagement by first writing interesting and thought provoking content. Then ask open-ended questions that will encourage feedback.

Don't be shy about asking for a share, tweet or like too. You don't always have to spell it out at the end of the article - you can place sharing buttons in a position where your audience is likely to see them.

12. Humans First, Search Engines After

It is true that you want your content to get to the first page, preferably in the number one position. If you're writing for search engines however, you're only going to achieve the opposite.

Search engines don't read your content. They catalog it so that humans can read it. They're smart enough to filter out robotic like content and rank content that is useful to humans.

They strive to provide a great user experience so that people will keep using their search engines.

Do not worry about keyword density and LSI keywords. If you know your topic and write relevant info then you're going to naturally have your keywords and other related keywords right in your article.

Definitely put the keyword in your SEO title though. It helps.

There you have it, twelve very useful tips for improving your writing.

Which ones are you guilty of messing up? As a reader, which ones drive you nuts? Are there any tips not listed here that you'd like to share? Tell me in the comments below.
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Hudson Premium
Super blog - thanks for taking the time to bring this to us. Regardless of how long we have been in WA we all need reminding of these points from time to time as we go forward,
Regards
Hudson
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skiergal Premium
Great article...lots of helpful tips. Spell check for sure. It's so easy to miss your own mistakes
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Jay Gumbs Premium
Yes very true. Thanks for commenting.
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nathaniell Premium
The one that kills me is putting everything through spell check, but missing things like 'thorough', 'through', and 'though' or plurals. Then, 6 months later when I go to update something I notice that I've had the blatant errors sitting there. Embarrassing.

I found that reading the article aloud can be good way to check (though much slower). I had someone create a podcast from some of my articles and almost everyone one had errors I didn't catch until I heard them spoken. Even after developing this habit, at least for the articles I send off to be narrated, some errors still get past me.
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Jay Gumbs Premium
Well I guess that shows that we're human after all. Can't catch 'em all.

Thanks for the comment.
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Kyle Premium
These are definitely the most common mistakes. I see them on a daily basis and they stand out like a sore thumb. Some of the big ones for me as a reader are big blocks of text (no paragraphs) and using block letters. Those are enough to drive a reader nuts.

This is a MUST READ for anyone writing content and you have made some very good points here. Nice work Jay!
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Jay Gumbs Premium
High five!
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welshy Premium
Hi Jay, That's a great post and I should go over it every time before hitting publish :)
Spelling and grammar is very hard for me I find as I don't know what's right or wrong, I'm actually thinking about doing an online course to learn English.
Thanks
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Jay Gumbs Premium
Grammar can be tough. To me if it sounds correct, then I'm using it. If it sounds weird its probably not right and I usually just try to structure the sentence some other way that sounds right.

An English course could be a good move if its that tough for you. Self improvement is always a good thing.

Thanks for the comment.
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