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WRITING FOR THE WEB How is web writing different? It’s not exactly like writing for a book, it’s not exactly like writing for a newspaper or magazine, it’s not exactly like broadcast writing ( although it has elements of all of these )…

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WRITING FOR THE WEB

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WRITING FOR THEWEB


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How is web writing different?


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It’s not exactly like writing for a book, it’s not exactly like writing for a newspaper or magazine, it’s not exactly like broadcast writing (although it has elements of all of these)…


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…It is creating content for an interactive, 24-hour global communication medium that is completely unique because anyone can be a user of web content, and anyone can be a producer of web content!


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Words on

the Web…..


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  • Are less stable – they are on the screen for a few seconds, then blink out of sight as the viewer clicks the next link and continues onward to another page


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  • Are three dimensional – web writing both pushes and pulls. Web users are always:

    • Searching

    • Reacting to what they find

    • Looking for paths

    • Reacting to links

    • Looking for connected ideas

    • Identifying navigational points

    • Going forward & going backward


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  • Words serve as signposts – web users are actually “travelers” who don’t know exactly where they’ll begin or where they’ll end because their search goes from signpost to signpost, from page to page, in search of what they want or need, never quite knowing where they’re headed


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Q: How do people “read” a web page?


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A: They scan it.


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People tend to read headlines first and also first words of sentences


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People tend to read headlines first and also first words of sentences


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People tend to read headlines first and also first words of sentences


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People tend to read headlines first and also first words of sentences


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People tend to read headlines first and also first words of sentences


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People tend to read headlines first and also first words of sentences


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Eye tracking studies show people scan a page in an “F” shaped pattern


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Eye tracking studies show they scan a page in an “F” shaped pattern

F


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Implications of “F” Pattern

  • Users won’t read text thoroughly

  • First two paragraphs must state the most important information

  • Begin subheads, paragraphs and bullet points with information-loaded words


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User studies also show…

…users typically don’t respond well to boastful, exaggerated or promotional type words and phrases such as “greatest ever” or “cutting-edge” or “hottest,” etc. Users want to get straight to the facts.


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Therefore web writing will be most effective if it’s short, to the point, & formatted so it’s easy for users to scan the page quickly


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For example…


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Kentucky State Parks

Kentuckians are proud of their state park system, considered to be the nation’s very best. The Commonwealth offers more high quality state resort parks than any other state. Visitors can participate in a multitude of activities, and accommodations are well appointed and designed to meet most any need. Park lodges include Barkley Lodge with 120 rooms, Lake Cumberland with 63 rooms, Dale Hollow with 60 rooms, Rough River with 40 rooms, Blue Licks with 32 rooms, and 12 others.

First Draft


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Kentucky State Parks

Kentuckians are proud of their state park system, widely considered to be the nation’s best. The Commonwealth offers more state resort parks than any other state. Park lodges include Lake Barkley, Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow, Rough River, Blue Licks, and 12 others.


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Kentucky State Parks

Kentuckians are proud of their state park system, widely considered to be the nation’s best. The Commonwealth offers more state resort parks than any other state. Park lodges include Lake Barkley, Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow, Rough River, Blue Licks, and 12 others.

Better


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Kentucky State Parks

The Commonwealth offers more state resort parks than any other state. Park lodges include:

  • Barkley Lodge with 120 rooms

  • Lake Cumberland with 63 rooms

  • Dale Hollow with 60 rooms

  • Rough River with 40 rooms

  • Blue Licks with 32 rooms

  • 12 others.


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Kentucky State Parks

The Commonwealth offers more state resort parks than any other state. Park lodges include:

  • Barkley Lodge with 120 rooms

  • Lake Cumberland with 63 rooms

  • Dale Hollow with 60 rooms

  • Rough River with 40 rooms

  • Blue Licks with 32 rooms

  • 12 others.

Even Better


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Kentucky State Parks

The Commonwealth offers more state resort parks than any other state. Park lodges include:

  • Barkley Lodge

  • Lake Cumberland

  • Dale Hollow

  • Rough River

  • Blue Licks

  • 12 others.


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Kentucky State Parks

The Commonwealth offers more state resort parks than any other state. Park lodges include:

  • Barkley Lodge

  • Lake Cumberland

  • Dale Hollow

  • Rough River

  • Blue Licks

  • 12 others.

Best


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Ultimately though, whether it is for the web… or for a newsletter… or for a magazine article… or for a public service announcement… good writing is good writing!


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Okay, so how do we make our writing good?


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Keep It Simple

  • “Talk” to one person – use “you” whenever appropriate

  • Use simple words and short sentences

  • Think like your audience (what would YOU find easy to read & understand?)

  • With few exceptions, brevity is always a virtue.


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USE SIMPLE W0RDS

An example would be using the word use not utilizing the word utilize.


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UNECESSARY WORDS

Avoid –ly, -tion and –ing. They can make a sentence lifeless.

Instead of…

Let me give you an explanation.


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UNECESSARY WORDS

…say…

Let me explain.


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EXAMPLES OF UNECESSARY WORDS

  • In this day and time

  • Until such time

  • On the occasion of

  • Of considerable magnitude

  • Within the realm of possibility

  • In the not too distant future

  • One and the same


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UNECESSARY WORDS

  • In this day and time - Now

  • Until such time - Until

  • On the occasion of – On, when

  • Of considerable magnitude - Large

  • Within the realm of possibility – Possible

  • In the not too distant future - Soon

  • One and the same – The same


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UNNECESSARY WORDS

  • “Although few in number, the beneficial aspects of the new innovation far outweigh the drawbacks.”


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UNECESSARY WORDS

“Although few, the innovation’s benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.”

(Six fewer words)


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WRITING BASICS

  • Commas – Some are mandatory while others are at the discretion of writer. They indicate a brief pause. The tendency in today’s writing is to use fewer commas.

    “Mike looked in the room, but he didn’t find anything.”

    “Mike looked in the room but didn’t find anything.”


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WRITING BASICS

Wrong word usage

Over versus more than.

The crop should yield more than 120 bushels an acre.

The cow jumped over the moon.


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WRITING BASICS

Avoid unclear pronouns.

“They visited several businesses where they manufactured appliances."

(Who is doing the manufacturing???)


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WRITING BASICS

Use active verbs to add power.

Instead of…

“The horse was led by the girl.”

…say…

“The girl led the horse.”


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WRITING BASICS

Edit everything you write.

Remember that…

The best writing is re-writing.


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Putting it All Together

When sentences are constructed by those who are dedicated to employing all the best techniques of accepted high quality writing, such as simple words, active verbs, and not using too many unnecessary words, then they will be superlative to less effective words written by them in a way that doesn’t employ them.


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Putting it All Together

You write better when you use good writing techniques, such as:

  • Simple words

  • Active verbs

  • No unnecessary words


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SUMMARY

  • Web users scan the page

    - Remember the “F” scan pattern

    - Headlines and first sentences are extremely important

    - Use simple words & short sentences

    - Edit often, don’t be afraid to re-write until you get it right


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Sources:

www.useit.com/alertbox (Jakob Nielson)

“Hot Text: Web Writing that Works” by Jonathan and Lisa Price

“Writing for Multimedia and the Web” by Timothy Garrand


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