Writing for the Web: Top Mistakes

What do you do when your Google search leads you to a website loaded with long blocks of text and no headings or graphics to break it up? If you’re like most, rather than weeding through the mountain of content, you click on your browser’s back button as soon as possible and move along to the next search result, right?

The World Wide Web is filled with websites such as these that fail to follow the rules of online writing. The Web has a unique writing style that, when used correctly, will entice readers rather than repulse them.

Here are some of the top mistakes to avoid when writing for the web:

  1. Long paragraphs and sentences. Research shows that people tend to scan websites rather than dive deep into content, so long paragraphs and complex sentences just don’t work. Rather, boil paragraphs down to focus on one subject, and use clear, concise sentences.
  2. Putting your main message at the bottom of the page. Readers don’t want to have to dig to find your main message. Make it obvious by putting it at the top.
  3. Failing to separate content. Headings, sub-headings and bulleted or numbered lists should be your best friends when writing for the Web. They help make content scannable and allow readers to gather the information they want quickly and easily.
  4. Using passive voice. Consider this passive rephrasing of a familiar joke: “Why was the road crossed by the chicken?” It doesn’t have the same ring as the active “Why did the chicken cross the road,” it sounds clunky, and it loses clarity. Always use active voice to energize your writing and make it clear who’s doing what.
  5. Not using hyperlinks, or using them incorrectly. No one likes a link that doesn’t work, so if you’re using hyperlinks to other pages (which you should) check them on a regular basis to ensure they’re working. Also, be clear when describing the link. Avoid “click here” language, and opt for something like: “for more information, contact us.”