You may think you are a good writer and in fact you may well be. But did you know that writing for online is a very different skill than just about every other kind of writing?

The reason is that people read information onscreen differently than how they read a book or magazine. Web usability expert Jacob Nielson has spent years studying how people read websites and found we don’t read them word for word. Instead our eyes scan across twice and then down the left side of the page, in an F-shape.

He also found that on average people only spend 10 seconds reading a web page, only long enough to take in about a quarter of the content before clicking away.

For this reason, we have to write in a way that gets the important messages across even in a quick scan. Here are some tips that good web writers follow:

  • Get straight to the point. Put conclusions in your first paragraph and expand on it afterwards.
  • Spell check everything.  If you don’t trust yourself to be 100% accurate, get someone else to proofread your copy before you upload it.  Avoid typos and glaring grammar mistakes.  They slow the reader down and detract from the site’s credibility.
  • Write only one idea per paragraph. Short, snappy paragraphs read better than long, complex ones.
  • Be active! Use authority and the active voice. Avoid passive words and keep the momentum of your page Format
  • Use bullet points. Like we are reading here – it’s easier to scan through some punchy lists than well-constructed paragraphs.
  • Keep sentences short. Make every word earn its keep to get your information across.
  • Use sub headers. Help the reader find the information they are looking for.