What’s great about this gem from P.G. Wodehouse is that it applies to all types of writing: business, fiction, and web.
“Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start.”
Web Writing: Unlearning Bad Habits
One of the difficulties I had when I started to write for the web was that the style I had been taught in school didn’t work online. Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing.
Writing long, flowery prose is fine for essays but, on the web, it’s brevity that wins.
Because on the web:
- We scan for information.
- We’re in a hurry.
- We’re searching for signposts (keywords) and
- We want an ANSWER to a specific problem.
Think about it.
You visit a site with some problem, query, or interest in mind. Then you go searching. Scanning over pages for the words that provide the answer.
This is so different than padding out a 3,000 word essay on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Web Writing Formula
One way I’ve managed to make this transition from academic writing to web writing is to use the following formula:
- Give yourself fifteen minutes to write a post. No more.
- Use short words only. For example, write get instead of procure.
- Remove adjectives unless than are critical. Streamline the waffle.
- Use bullets and headings to structure the post.
- Read it out loud. Sound pretentious, timid, boring? Go back and revise the text until it rings true.
And that’s really it.
That doesn’t mean everything you write has to be simplistic and shallow. Far from it. Instead, it means you get to the point faster, help the reader identify what they need to understand, and guide them to the next page, post, or site you recommend.
What’s the hardest thing about writing for the web?