Why High-Quality Writing Matters
You want folks to read your post—all the way through to the end. And actually understand what you're saying. Right? Right? (Be honest with yourself here.)
If this is the case—it is—then you need to communicate well. And the burden is on you to reduce the friction for the reader. Good writing:
- Gets better engagement (more reads, comments, shares, likes, etc.).
- Makes it easier to consume your content.
- Leads to a better understanding of the content.
- Makes you look more professional or expert-y.
- Shows you respect your readers.
- Shows you respect yourself.
- Makes the whole experience more enjoyable.
See? So it's totally worth the time, effort and care.
Read on to learn how you can create awesome written pieces, especially those you're planning to post online. Like here on PubOx.
If you're in a mega-hurry and just want the highlights fast-and-furious style, watch the 1-minute video in the TL;DR section. Come back and read this full how-to when you can.
Got no time? (Or a short attention span? <- Hello self-awareness! 😝) This video has most of the tips laid out below. But you should really go through the listicle at some point for a deeper dive. You'll become a better web writer.
18 Tips for Writing Killer Web Content
Writing well is often less about your chosen topic, than the thought and skill you've put into crafting your work. Good writing is more about how and where you express your ideas in the context of your subject matter, audience, timing, etc. So, yah, it can be fairly subjective....
That said, here are some guidelines to employ when writing for the web. Especially for "pleasure" reading (as opposed to business or academic). Yes, they're general rules of thumb, but they're still worth considering as you compose your masterpiece.
Style & Structure
- Keep sentences short and simple. (e.g., Avoid 25-word-long sentences with multiple clauses. If you can take a long sentence and break it into two—do it. Try to keep it so it's a one thought/idea per sentence ratio.)
- Vary sentence length and structure a little bit, though, so the cadence doesn't get monotonous and boring.
- Write like you talk. For many types of modern web writing, it's ok—good even. It's totally legit to use sentence fragments, parenthetical asides, ellipses, exclamations, etc. Obviously, you'll have to negotiate the appropriate tone and voice on a case-by-case basis, though.
- Show your personality. You've got sh*t to say, and a wonderful, unique voice—let people know it! Give yourself the opportunity to shine. 😊 (Insert tone and voice caveat here....)
- Keep paragraphs short. It's ok if there are lots of paragraphs. Chunking out the content improves readability.
- Organize your ideas logically, from the readers' perspective. What order or flow would make sense to them? (It's about them, not you!)
- Write for scanability. Often people don't read content; they scan it. So write in a way that acknowledges this and supports it: Use short sentences/paragraphs. Use section headers (H1s and H2s are must-haves for SEO benefits). Format text with bold, italics, bullet/numbered lists, highlighting, etc.
- Write to your intended audience. Copy should be written to about the 8th-grade level for general audiences (and maybe a little higher grade level for professional or academic commercial content). Be mindful if your audience is global (i.e., geographically dispersed, has different cultural norms and references, etc.) or your writing will be translated.
- Don't assume your readers know anything about your topic. Avoid jargon (e.g., legal or medical terms) and acronyms (e.g., ASCII or AIESEC) that might be unknown or confusing to your readers. If you must use them, always provide the full term for acronyms the first time you use them in the post. And give definitions and examples for terms/jargon and central points, either within your piece or as a link off to more info.
- Stay true to your brand and message. If you're a business or brand, the words (including the ideas of tone and voice) you're committing to paper (er, screen) should support your values, principles and priorities. They should re-enforce people's concept of who you are and what you're about. So, if you're writing for children, for example, you probably don't want to have swear words in your content.
- Keep your purpose central. Make sure what you're writing aligns to the whole purpose of creating the communication in the first place. Are you writing to inform, or to promote something you want someone, or to organize an event? Maybe you just want to entertain.... At any rate, your writing should guide the reader to any actions you want them to take. You want to arm the reader with what they need (and what they came to your site or blog for) and mobilize them to take the next steps.
- Include some sort of non-textual element to your post, e.g., picture, graph/chart, video, visually offset blockquote, etc. For images, always include alt text. As you're able to, include captions. This breaks up the monotony of a page of text; it is more engaging to readers, and Google favors it in SEO.
- Cite your sources. This.is.non-negotiable. You want credit for your work, right? So do others. Plus, citing your sources lends credibility to you and your work. Credibility cumulates into reputation, which can help you gain exposure (which can then lead to opportunities). Plus, plagiarism is bad and wrong; don't do it.
More Best Practices
- Be mindful of the platform you're publishing on. What you write here on PubOx isn't gonna fly on Twitter or that homepage intro video. Different media have different requirements and constraints, and speak to different kinds of audiences in different ways. Adjust your copy to fit each accordingly.
- Spell/grammar check before publishing. For the love of all that's good and plenty, if nothing else, do this so I don't want to scratch my eyes out. Even "casual" writing should use proper grammar (aside from stylistic freedoms you've purposefully adopted) and spelling. Sloppy mistakes jar readers and distract them from the brilliant points you're trying to get across. And it detracts from your credibility. Use fabulous tools like Grammarly, GrammarBot or WriteBetter to help you out. Also, check any links or embedded media to confirm they're working as expected. Then, when you think you're ready to publish, spellcheck/review the finished draft again prior to unleashing it on the world. (If you can get a second pair of eyeballs to review your piece, bonus.)
- Be consistent with your writing. If you intend to publish content on the reg, establish an editorial calendar—and stick to it. This accomplishes three key things. First, it keeps you on task and on time. You'll always know what content you're publishing where and when. Secondly, it sets expectations with your readers. If they see you post a blog post once a month, and you continue doing this, you come across as trustworthy and reliable. Third, regularly posting content on your blog (or website et al) builds your reputation score and expertise in the almighty eyes of the search engines (SEO anyone?).
- Keep on writing. The adage "Practice makes perfect." has sticking power for a reason. The more you flex your writing muscles, the better/quicker/easier your content will be to produce.
- Have fun! If your writing practice is enjoyable, you're more likely to continue. Try to find ways to make writing something you look forward to doing: Make it an excuse to go to your favorite cafe. Listen to your beloved playlist. Pick topics that capture your imagination or passion.
Now that you've committed this list to memory (joking!), it may please you to know that many of these tips also apply (in some way) to other forms of writing. For example, you should definitely consider your readership when authoring an academic paper and proofread your cover letter for that job application. Nice, huh?
Going from theory to practice is hard! No worries. The stuff in this section aims to help you over that hump.
I wouldn't just throw you out into the wild without a helpful tool! Here's a handy checklist you can use when writing your PubOx posts. The list above has some additional tips that aren't on this checklist...oh well. 🤷♀️)
Quick Overview Video
If you didn't watch it at the beginning, my YouTube video 11 Tips for Killer Webcopy gives you a 1-minute quick hit.
Context & More Details
Lastly, you can also check out a feature I did about webcopy on my business website. It has some other contextual info not included in this post.
There have to be more "good writing" tips. What are your favorites? If you'd like to see better writing spread around the web, you better share! (That's what Comments sections are for!) Thanks!