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Web Writing Rules to Live By

Say More with Less in Your Web Writing

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When writing for the Web you want to make sure that you get the most out of the words you choose. Web writing is different from print writing, but many Web pages look like they've been written with a high school English teacher in mind as the audience.

  1. Conserve Your Words
    We don't worry about the cost of ink or bandwidth when we write for the Web, but we must be frugal with our text. Edit your content to remove unnecessary words.
  2. Write to Empower, Not to Impress
    Web writing should serve a purpose, and get to that purpose as quickly as possible. Limit metaphors and flowery language.
  3. Follow a consistent Web Writing Style Guide
    To maintain a consistent voice across your site, you should create a Web style guide and follow it at all times.
  4. Avoid Unnecessary Intro Text
    Don't tell us what you're going to say. Just say it. Here are some phrases to avoid:
    • In this article, . . .
    • Let's get started
    • In conclusion
    • It is safe to say
  5. Avoid Redundant Adjectives
    Don't use adjectives whose meaning is already contained within a noun. Some examples:
    • Final Outcome
    • Free Gift
    • Added Bonus
    • Awful Tragedy
    • Various Differences
    • Personal Beliefs
    • End Result
    • Past Memories
    • Unexpected Surprise
    • True Facts
  6. Watch Out for Wimpy Words
    Some words add tentativeness rather than clarity.
    • In my opinion - If you're the author, readers already know it's your opinion.
    • Basically
    • Kind of
    • Sort of
    • Really
    • Virtually
    • Practically
    • Personally
    • As you already know - maybe readers know this, maybe they don't. Stop apologizing.
  7. Replace Wordy Phrases With Single Words
    • At this point in time -] Now
    • Due to the fact that -] Because
    • In the event that -] If
    • Increase in -] More
    • In light of -] Because
  8. Replace Prepositional Phrases With Adjectives
    The article on hepatitis -] The hepatitis article
  9. Don't Turn Verbs Into Nouns (Nominalizations)
    Use verbs for action in your Web writing.
    Original: I saw the improvement my daughter made in math with regular after school math tutoring.
    New: My daughter's math skills improved with regular after school tutoring.
  10. Use Precise Language
    Use pronouns sparingly to improve both clarity and search optimization. Use the same proper noun to describe a person, place, or thing throughout your document.

Avram Piltch is the Senior Managing Editor for About.com and these are the recommendations he gives to About writers for writing on the Web.

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