Great writing never goes out of style. Writing well is an important way that you establish credibility with your readers. Here are my top tips to create the best online content.
Before you start:
- Define the purpose.
- Define the audience.
- Decide on a style and stick with it. Options include the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style. You can also create your own. Common style issues include:
- Capitalization rules
- Handling of dates and times
- Use or non-use of serial commas
- Picking one spelling for words with multiple common spellings
As you write:
- Use a dictionary. Spell according to the first spelling listed in that source.
- Keep text brief and simple and use familiar words and great verbs.
- Use a header/headline (with verb), summary, and more details structure. Many readers will not read more than the first paragraph. All readers scan first to see if they want to read more.
- Avoid jargon and acronyms.
- Use active (rather than passive) voice.
- Keep sentences short.
- Keep content short. Post or webpage should have one main point/message. If you have multiple messages, you probably have to break it up into multiple posts or pages.
- Use heads and subheads profusely.
- Use bullets to organize and call attention to information.
- Create link text that is more helpful than “click here” and “read more.” Links are a different color and/or underlined so they jump out to users. Users should be able to predict where each link will take them based on the text of the link. Use verb-based links centered on what the user will find or accomplish.
- Use links judiciously. Links to other sites increase your web site credibility, but too many links can distract and overwhelm your web visitors.
- Vary paragraph lengths to make your page look more lively.
- Use images to illustrate. Make sure images, charts, and graphs are clear at a glance and communicate the same information as the surrounding text.
When You Think You Are Done
Have someone who has not been involved with the content development read the content, preferably online (the same condition as your intended audience.) Ask for a summary of the key point and comments. Act on the feedback to refine your writing before publishing it more widely.