These days, just about everyone with a computer spends several hours a day reading email, memos, news, research and social networks from a computer screen.
Sadly, the vast majority of content on the web is poorly written, too long, and badly laid out.
Hence, my Internet Writing Manifesto:
• Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Big blobs of copy suck. If removing any word in your sentence doesn’t change the meaning, you’re not done writing.
• Eliminate hype words – nobody believes them anyway (most, only, first, best, greatest….) Usability expert Jakob Nielsen found that readability improved by 27% when hype words were removed.
• White space is your friend. Use it to make reading from the screen easier. Nothing is harder to read than a solid block of copy.
• Use the simplest possible word and sentence structure.
• Read your copy out loud and make sure you don’t get stuck on complex construction. If you trip on a word in the midst of reading a sentence aloud, re-write the sentence.
• Make the lead paragraph tell who and what the story is about and why the reader should care.
• Forget what you learned about business writing in school if you graduated before 1990. Stiff, formal writing is only for lawyers. And you know what Shakespeare said about them.
• Use bulleted points whenever you can.
• If you write about a product or service, include the price and a link.
• Always use subheads every few paragraphs, even in a one-page piece.
Best writing advice I ever got
• Edit, edit, edit
The best advice I ever got about writing was from my first boss, the late Leo Miller, who taught me a game to play with sentences.
He’d keep taking out words until removing one more word destroyed the meaning of the sentence. For example: Take out words until removing another destroys the sentence meaning.