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?
The Best of Plum Wodehouse…
- Sell your work, try to sell your work, don’t hide behind a mask of “individuality” or “creativity”. Good stuff always sells in the end, but you have to keep going until then. The notebooks are full of instructions to himself. They were going to be re-read. “Try this..” crops up time and time again. mtmg.wordpress.com
- Advice to writers who want to do humorous fiction. I don’t think a man can deliberately sit down to write a funny story unless he has got a sort of slant on life that leads to funny stories. If you take life fairly easily, then you take a humorous view of things. kirstenmortensen.com
- In his last decade, Wodehouse could still average 1,000 words a day where, as a younger man, he had often written 2,500 words and more. dailyroutines.typepad.
- The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play – See more at: scribblepreach.com
- Keep professional notebooks. The entries in Wodehouse’s notebooks and commonplace books are numbered for future reference. garreteer.co.uk
- “I should think it extremely improbable that anyone ever wrote simply for money. What makes a writer is that he likes writing. Naturally, when he has written something, he wants to get as much for it as he can, but that is a very different thing from writing for money.”laneymcmann.com
- Are you bored? Snap out of it! Never blog when you’re feeling bored, it comes across in your words. Arouse your enthusiasm. When I feel bored, and know I need to write anyway. angelabooth.com
- “It is never very difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” www.badlanguage.net