How To Write in the Brave New World

Jason Lee Miller writes on Web Pro News about how to write for the web. It’s a new way of looking at the words…

“When writing so people can find you better on search engines, keep it simple. Use short words, not complicated ones. Precise words are even better. But most importantly, use words people know. That’s news to me, too. I like long, artfully crafted sentences (not that I can write them). I like well-placed 25-cent words.

I even like serif fonts. But serifs, big words and long sentences are for fuddy-duddies and books. This is the Web. Fuddy-duddies should take note.

What’s the first word that comes to your mind? Use that one. How would tell a long story to an old friend who showed up next to you at the stop light? You know, before the light turns green. Tell it that way first on your webpage. Tell them more if they want to know, but give the basics first.

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen says “speak the user’s language.” He says the Web-writer’s first duty is to write to be found. He also said:

Old words rule because people know them intimately. Familiar words spring to mind unbidden. Thus, users are likely to employ old words when they boil down their problem to a search query, which is typically only 2-3 words long.

People really like bullets, too.

• Don’t make up words. Nobody likes corporate speak.

• Don’t exaggerate.

• Don’t be salesy.

• One idea per paragraph. Readers skim.

• If a writing professor would give you an ‘A’ on your work, shoot for a ‘C’ by cutting it in half.

• Link to more complete information.

• Steer clear of brand names if just starting out. People won’t know to search for it anyway.

• To the average searcher, blind people are blind, not visually challenged.

• High ranking is just half the battle. Getting clicks depends on users understanding headlines and summaries. They skip past the ones they don’t understand.