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Polish Your Online Writing Skills

By Jody Bruner

May 2, 2024

Writing Skills

Polish Your Online Writing Skills - Online-writing-skills
Polish Your Online Writing Skills - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1
Polish Your Online Writing Skills - wave-lime-green-1260x540-1

Wavelength’s Writing for the Web course helps writers create content that delivers precisely what their page visitors are looking for. A bedrock principle of all our writing courses is thinking like readers and developing content from their perspective. For web writing, that means seeing everything through the lens of page visitors.

When you welcome guests into your home, you greet them warmly and show them around – where to put coats, where the food is, where the drinks are – so they know where to find what they want. Treat page visitors just as courteously by empowering them to quickly find the information they seek.

Analyzing page visitors’ needs is a critical first step in creating a positive reader experience. Who are your current readers? Who do you wish to attract? Why are they visiting? What questions do they want answered and how can you help them quickly find those answers?

With a clear visitor profile, you can then make appropriate decisions around structure, layout and style. Here are a few best practices to get you started.

Create a scannable structure

Visitors don’t approach a web page as they would a page in a novel. Chances are very good they’re not reading every word, top to bottom. Instead, they scan, seeking key words or phrases that address their needs. To satisfy skimmers, think bite, snack, meal.

  • Bite – a heading that conveys the main point
  • Snack – summary of information (bottom line)
  • Meal – complete details

Here’s an example:

Bite: Documents you need to apply for a community loan

Snack: Along with your community loan application, you need to submit the following four documents:

  • Proof of income
  • Proof of residency
  • Photo ID
  • Resume

Meal: Acceptable documents you can submit

We require one document from each of the following four categories:

  • Proof of income includes T4 slips, letter from employer…
  • Proof of residency includes tax bill, utility bill, mortgage statement…
  • Photo ID includes passport, driver’s license…
  • Resume should include your work history, education, related experience…

Consider layout choices

Great content gets lost in a cluttered, hard-to-decipher layout. When it comes to layout, less is more. For easy page navigation, make effective use of white space and avoid huge blocks of text. Choose a legible (preferably) sans serif font and use boldface and color judiciously. Consider how readers’ eyes scan a page and ensure your key messages align with that pattern. Pages should be consistent and align on a grid. Opt for medium line length for easier reading.

Use plain language and a conversational style

A well-written web page feels like a conversation. Like you’re talking to that guest you welcomed into your home. Be clear and natural. Resist the temptation to show off extensive knowledge of rarely used words. Be concise so you’re not forcing your reader to wade through wordy expressions that are the junk food of writing…empty calories that add no value to a message. Instead of ‘In view of the fact that’, substitute ‘because’. Rather than, ‘at this point in time’, try ‘now’ or ‘currently’.

Remember that page visitors can drop in from anywhere in the world, so be sensitive to that global audience. Avoid idioms and stay away from analogies that could be controversial, e.g., war, religion.

Treat page visitors as thoughtfully as you treat visitors to your home and they’ll be back.

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