ONLINE WRITING GUIDE
Studies have found that people assume different reading behaviors in reading online text – and different writing approach is required in order to effectively communicate your site content to the readers . This guide is an overview of writing principles that have been suggested by reputable authorities on online writing, with links to additional resources for further reading.
Jakob Nielsen, a renowned usability expert, observed that less than a fifth of web users actually “read” new pages they come across; most users scan the information displayed on screen to digest information. Furthermore, users disliked the self-promoting writing style that is often found on the web and preferred concise text with paragraphs reflecting single identifiable ideas. In order to address these issues, Nielsen recommends three simple principles to improve the usability of text on the web.
One of the biggest differences between writing on paper and on the web is the availability of hyperlinks. Appropriate use of the text hyperlinks can greatly enhance the readability and effectiveness of a w eb document . At least three goals can be achieved by effective usage of text hyperlinks:
Know the Readers
The characteristics of your readers can have a great effect on how your writing will be perceived. How comfortable are they with navigating w eb pages? How much interest do they have in your subject? Would they visit your site for detailed information, or for quick reference? All these questions need to be considered in your writing order for your w eb page to be effective.
Additional ResourcesStanford-Makovsky Web Credibility Study 2002 (460 kb)
“Writing for the Web” resources at useit.com
“Content Development/Writing for the Web” resources at websitetips.com
“Writing for the Web” – article by Gerry McGovern
“Writing for the Web” – article from Dartmouth College Web Teachings
“Concise, SCANNABLE, and Objective: How to Write for the Web” – article by John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen
“How Users Read on the Web” – article by Jakob Nielsen
“Web Writing for Many Interest Levels” – article by Nathan Wallace
“10 Rules of Writing for the Web” (92 kb) – article by Gerry McGovern