Writing for the Web
Whether you’re creating content for your own site or seeking work writing on another site, you need to learn how to write for the web. Reading on a computer screen is a different experience that melting into a favorite chair with a book or lounging with a magazine, and demands different conventions.
As a general rule, web writing should be short and easily digestible. Paragraphs should be more like those used by journalists — one- or two sentences that quickly make a point and move on. Transitions aren’t as important, because web readers tend to skim for important points rather than leisurely scan through an article. Important points can be highlighted by using bold text, allowing readers to quickly grasp important points. Using bulleted or numbered lists is also useful, allowing readers to skip easily to directly relevant information.
For the literary writer, this can be a nightmare. Fortunately, there are always exceptions to every rule. But it pays to understand and master the rules you are breaking, rather than simply ignoring them.
If you feel more comfortable writing in longer forms, try writing a summary or introduction and linking to a printable pdf of the full piece. People will usually print out a longer piece if they have a compelling reason to do so — use the shorter piece to build interest and urge your reader to download the longer version.
Try breaking longer paragraphs into shorter ones — I find that in my own writing, I can usually squeeze two or even three paragraphs out of my original long paragraphs, with minimal editing. That perhaps betrays a sloppiness in my own writing, but whatever the case, my paragraphs tend to have a main point and two or three supporting points that can be given their own paragraph.
Using bulleted points can do the same thing: each sub-point of a paragraph gets its own bullet, allowing the material to be more easily digested by web readers.
It’s tempting to curse the shallowness of readers on the web, but restricting your writing style to allow for easy web reading can actually improve your writing. Writing for the web encourages concision and clarity, and discourages lengthy description and rambling — qualities Strunk and White would applaud! While you might not want to apply the lessons of web writing throughout your oevre, you can certainly learn a lot from adopting the limitations of web writing.