Creativity with Usability

Letting Go of the Words When Writing for the Web

One approach to web writing lies in thinking of your writing as you would a conversation with a friend. In other words, through your content you are essentially answering questions about a particular subject, giving information as clearly and concisely as possible. Although you won’t have a human subject to assess how your information is being received, try to anticipate the questions you might be asked and answer them as thoroughly as possible in the most succinct manner possible. In some instances you can use the questions you anticipate as subheadings then answer them in the short paragraph below.

While the goal is not to make each web page you write look like an FAQ page, keeping in mind potential questions and answering them as you write can make you a much more creative writer. Further, using the technique of conversation writing pushes you to consider what your reader really wants to know—why they came to the site in the first place. Web readers want quick, solid answers to life’s very real problems.

If you think of your article as a pyramid which answers the most important questions at the top and works down to the base with the questions of less importance, you will have a better chance at grabbing your reader’s attention and holding them to the very end. If you follow the model of web as conversation, remember that the web reader is an active participant in much of the web’s writings, meaning readers can post responses in many cases which can actually lead to a give and take conversation. Questions or comments posted by your readers can also send your writing in a new direction.

What Does Letting Go of the Words Mean?

If you are wondering about the title of this particular article—letting go of the words—really means, think of the average web reader with little to no time to find the answer to their question or concern. The successful web writer must be able to turn loose of extraneous words while keeping the essential message and information. Of course letting go of words is hardly a novel idea—it is one that is used widely in print content as well. Your goal is to cut unnecessary words, not the words which actually give your writing meaning. Read your article aloud to ensure there are no words which make your content sound vague rather than precise and ditch any of those which fail to enhance your ideas.

When Longer May Be Better

While being able to ruthlessly edit your work is essential, remember that some ideas simply take more words to express, and in the end you shouldn’t cut words to the point that the entire article makes little sense to the reader. Google’s relevancy algorithms happen to be seeking out more natural forms of writing, meaning that if your copy is great—despite the length—you will get as much traffic for the longer article as you will for the small, hyper-focused pages. In theory at least, the search engines are leaning toward richer content, meaning the more complete answers Google can provide, the higher its own value tends to be. In other words, it is to Google and other search engine’s advantage to push for more high-quality in-depth articles—which nevertheless have no extraneous words which don’t contribute to the overall effect.

Structure Your Words

Don’t forget that the structure of your web content is just as important as the words within. Structure the page so it is easily readable, breaking pages up into short logical chunks of copy. In other words, endless streams of copy—no matter how great the message—will not hold a web reader’s attention. Answer your reader’s questions in the most succinct yet creative and innovative manner possible, and you will have succeeded in your quest of great web writing.


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