Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writing for the web

Journalists should already be familiar with George Orwell’s 6 rules of writing (if not, then I suggest you take a look now) however Mr Orwell had [unluckily] never heard of the Internet nor had ever tried to read stuff off a back-lit electronic screen rather than the printed page he was used to.

I've been lucky enough to work with some great online copywriters, digital editors and web information architects. They have made my life so much easier and made the client (and me in the process) look very professional. And so, whilst I don't regard myself as having a fraction of their skills (or patience), I have learnt a thing or two from them. I'm therefore going to extend George Orwell's rules by 2 more, to make them '8 rules for writing for the web'.

  1. Structure your content the way people want to read it, not the way you think you need to show it - kind of like a user-centred copy approach, if you will. So.... out goes huge lengthy paragraphs and in come bulleted lists and other such devices to make you content more scan-able and consumable.
    To put it another way, think of your end-user as an eater of words rather than a reader of them.
    Arrange your content into small manageable bite-sized chunks that are easy to digest!
    (Can you tell I once worked for an international food company?)
  2. Make sure you have copy standard and stick to them! I have lost count at the amount of times I have seen a company refer to themselves differently across their own corporate website for no reason.
    For example:
    - us
    - we
    - Mega Corp
    - Mega Corp inc.
    - MegaCorp
    - MC
    - the company
    and the list goes on!

    It really doesn't take much to keep a central dictionary of common terms & titles, and its now even less effort to stick this document up on your company Intranet as a permanent reference.

I hope George Orwell approves of my additions.....

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