Writing for the web Barbara Alysen
PRECIS Audience Writing style Style tips – writing Style tips – visual Resources
Audience • Much of what we know about the way audiences interact with online copy is via ‘eyetrack’ studies which focus on news sites and general (rather than motivated) interaction. • Findings: • Audiences scan before they settle • They may linger only 3 seconds • Top of screen most viewed. (source: Yahoo)
Know your audience Who are they? Why are they looking at your pages? What will they want to know? What is their level of existing knowledge? How much time will they give to your message?
Write for your audience Clear layout Crisp, clear writing Simple sentence structure Concise, unambiguous headings and sub heads Consistent style Check before you upload
Writing style Write with strong nouns and verbs Restrict use of adjectives and adverbs Keep sentences short and strong Full stop is your friend
Online resource http://styleguide.yahoo.com/writing
Writing style In general, the active voice is shorter, sharper and more appealing than the passive. Some exceptions.
Example ACTIVE (subject-verb-object) • The Prime minister called an election for May 2. PASSIVE (object-verb-subject) • An election was called by the Prime Minister for May 2. BUT • The Prime Minster was bitten by a dog. (An example of when the passive voice is better.)
Inclusive writing • Use words everyone will understand • at this point in time • commencement • stated • meet with • exacerbate • ameliorate • now • start • said • meet • worsen • improve
Inclusive writing • For a list of long words and short, more easily understood alternatives see: • http://home.comcast.net/~garbl/stylemanual/words.htm
Writing style • Business writers generally use the third person. But the second person can be more inclusive. • EXAMPLE (If you are hoping to enroll this year …)
Consistency • See the Yahoo Style Guide for a list of things to watch. • Includes: • - capitalisation • - use of dates • - use of numbers
SEO: Search Engine Optimisation SEO needed if you hope to attract traffic from search engines Involves using key words in headline and first part of copy Ask yourself – what terms would someone interested in my copy search on No room for puns, enigma etc.
SEO – a guide • http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf
Writing – start with Start with a ‘road map’. What do you need to tell people? In what order? If you can’t fit everything in, what can be left out? W.W.W.W.W.H.
Style tips • Mix short and slightly longer sentences. Variations in sentence length add pace to writing. See? • Mixed length sentences are easier to scan. • Simple, clear writing has an eloquence more complex writing cannot match.
Style tips Read copy out loud to see if it ‘sings’. This is standard procedure for broadcast journalists. But it works for all writers. Reading aloud will alert you to stylistic errors, including awkward phrasing and unwanted repetition. When each page is set out, check for visual repetition. Eg. avoid starting sequential sentences on the same word.
Style tips Your best friend is someone who knows nothing about your topic and can spot the gaps in your content and presentation. Print out your copy. Cut it into pars. Rearrange them to see if that would improve the flow.
House style Links to additional information within the text Bold & italics
Style tips - visual • Make your copy easy on the eye and the ear. • Break up the text with headings & sub-heads • Headings can be questions, answered by the body copy • Use bullet points where suitable
Style tips - visual Use visuals – pictures, charts etc - if you have them and they convey information more quickly than words Use single sentence (or small groups of sentences) paragraphs (Journalists call them ‘pars’)
Resources • Many media organisations make their style guides available. There are an excellent guide to good writing. • BBC STYLE GUIDE http://www2.media.uoa.gr/lectures/linguistic_archives/academic_papers0506/notes/stylesheets_3.pdf
The Guardian STYLE GUIDE http://www.guardian.co.uk/styleguide
Resources Yahoo STYLE GUIDE http://styleguide.yahoo.com/ Wikinews STYLE GUIDE http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Wikinews:Style_guide