Writing for the Web #MMONBI

May 10, 2012


This article is part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative (NBI) and meant for advice for new bloggers! Find out more about NBI.

writing-for-the-webWriting for the web is different than the writing you were taught in school. In school, you were given structure for your essays that you had to follow.

While I wouldn’t recommend you totally throw out what you know about writing essays as it probably is a good idea your post has a basic topic that you are talking about and have supporting paragraphs but there is one thing you need to know when writing for a post on the web.

People Don’t Read – They Scan

There may be a few folks who will actually read your entire article word for word but the reality is most will not. I can attest to this in the number of questions I get on guides I write where the answer to their question is in the guide, they just didn’t read it.

In the first couple seconds of opening your article, your reader will judge if they will actually read your article. They will look at your opening paragraph and scan down the page and see if this is something of interest to them.

How do you capture the scanner’s attention?

  • Headers separating your thoughts into categories to grab attention
  • Bulleted lists to quickly scan details in an organized fashion.
  • Stress important words and phrases with tools such as bold, italics, highlights or color (avoid using underlines as in the web world that = hyperlink)
  • Keep your paragraphs short.
  • Images! Draw people’s eyes to a topic by using appropriate images that enhance your story or subject

Re-arrange Your Paragraphs

Start your paragraphs with your most impactful statement. If a scanner is going to read any part of a paragraph, it’s going to be the first sentence. Especially if the paragraph is near the top of the page or the start of a new sub-header. Let the reader know what you’re trying to tell them in that paragraph and you could capture their attention to read the rest.

It’s Your Blog – You Decide

Now I certainly am not a writing wizard with all the answers. To be perfectly honest, one of the most difficult classes I’ve ever taken in school was Creative Writing which you would think would be pretty good skill to have for a blog owner.

Just because someone took the time to give you “rules” for writing on the web doesn’t mean you need to follow them all. Your content and your blog are yours and it should reflect your unique style. If something here simply doesn’t jive with you and your style, I advise to forget it. You are the boss of your blog!

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About Goldenstar

Goldenstar's primary happiness in games is anything that involves festivals, parties, cosmetics and pie. If there's any time after those things to kill bad guys, so be it.

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13 Responses to “Writing for the Web #MMONBI”

  1. Knify-Riddermark Says:

    Lol they fact about scanning is so true! I just scanned over that in about 30 sec!


  2. Artie Says:

    Scanning is also a problem with people who read anything else as well as news stories. I see it on forum posts, fanfics, and everything in between. It’s a growing epidemic on the net this day and age and a bit frustrating.


  3. Alexandra & Bogdan Epureanu Says:

    We would also like to mention that, generally, an article is recommended to have between 300-400 and 600-800 words; if it is longer than this it may be wise to split it in more pages, or even more articles.


  4. Tony Says:

    Great article. I do a lot of work in usability, accessibility and so forth and come across these things a lot.

    You’re right about the scanning. You can combat it as you show here, but you can’t FIX it — people decide if something is worthwhile to them on the Internet within seconds. I imagine it has something to do with how overly accessible everything else is to them.

    It can be really hard to not write a lot when you’re doing editorializing, though. I’ve had hard times with that… And all the methods you describe here are great, I’ve had success with them.

    The main thing that I do try to keep in mind from normal writing classes is really just that it’s good to have a solid intro and a solid exit/summary paragraph. That’s because I notice from my own reading that I tend to read the intro sentences, skip the middle and go to the end to see where the article is headed… Then I’ll go back and read what’s in-between.


  5. Avatar of Vræden
    Vræden Says:

    I combat the scanning problem by making sure every article I write is at least 2500 words and has a dozen or so footnotes.


    • Alexandra & Bogdan Epureanu Says:

      Yes, that’s definitely a solution to combat scanning, but it probably lowers the number of readers a lot too. :P

      P.S.: Your footnotes are OK when reading on a computer, but a real nightmare when reading from a mobile device.


  6. Felaros Says:

    I am in that 16% that reads every single word you put into an article and for Vræden’s articles I wait until I am finished reading the article to go through the footnotes and figure out the context that they were written in. The only time I skim is for the guides and the podcast articles because I am usually looking for something specific in them.

    I usually decide what I want to read by the title of the article.


  7. susan Says:

    I am guilty of becoming one of those scanners.. seems every year that goes by my window of concentration gets slimmer and slimmer, one sound byte after the next, one blurb after the next, until it all becomes one big constant stream of stimuli.

    Add in the fact that more people are also simultaneously listening to music, multitasking on various websites and hard copy… its a wonder we can soak up any information at all. Hook em fast and hard because if you dont your audience has moved onto the next page and beyond.

    good article, i enjoyed reading it and appreciate the efforts the people who contribute to this site have done. cheers!


  8. Avatar of The Fallen Numenorean
    The Fallen Numenorean Says:

    People scan? They don’t read word for word like me? wow! I didn’t know that.



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