Whether you’re new to writing online content or a seasoned veteran, we all could use some writing advice from time to time. To help you become the superstar content marketer/copywriter/blogger you’ve always dreamed of being, we’ve come up with 10 helpful tips for writing engaging online content. You’re welcome!
Vary your sentence length. This paragraph is dreadful. It’s dull and boring. This is practically unreadable. Can you see why?
This paragraph is much easier to read. That’s what happens when you vary your sentence length; it suddenly becomes a lot easier for the reader to pay attention, no matter what you’re writing about. It’s that easy.
Vary your paragraph length. This tip only really applies when you’re writing something that’s more than one or two paragraphs long, but for those medium-to-long pieces, breaking up the longer paragraphs and mixing up short paragraphs and long paragraphs makes your text more reader-friendly. Big blocks of text are intimidating, especially online, where readers often prefer “scanning” text rather than reading every word. Set off your important points as shorter paragraphs, and you’ll grab the reader’s attention and keep him or her engaged.
This is an important point.
Break up the text in other ways. So you’re mixing up short paragraphs and long paragraphs, but your page still looks text-heavy. Use headers, subheaders, images and bullet points to catch the reader’s eyes and break up the text. Most of the time, people are looking for information online, and they want to be able to find it quickly. Making your content scan-able keeps them from clicking away.
- Bullet points are one quick way to communicate information.
- A bullet-point list stands out on the page.
- And isn’t this nice? Your eyes get a break from looking at plain old text.
Never use two words when one will do. This is a basic and ancient rule of good writing, but it’s especially important on the web. People browsing the Internet are bombarded with words from the moment they open their browser, so take the short way to your point, and communicate as efficiently as possible.
Keep your audience in mind. Are you writing that article about data storage for an audience of engineers or an audience of laypeople? Oversimplified language will frustrate the first audience; jargon will confuse the second. You may be the best writer in the world, but unless you can tailor your voice to different audiences, you still won’t be an effective communicator.
Use active voice, not passive voice. Great writers write great content. Great content is written by great writers. Those two sentences mean the same thing, but the first uses active voice, and the second uses passive voice. In the first, the subject of the sentence, “writers,” is performing the action. The subject is active. In the second, the subject of the sentence is “content,” but it isn’t doing anything.
The passive voice bogs down prose and makes reading a drag, while active voice makes prose strong and, well, active. Unless you want to put your audience to sleep, use active voice whenever possible.
Write to fit the topic and the context. The writing style that gets you an “A” in your creative writing class may not be appropriate for product descriptions of printers, and the style you use for product descriptions of printers is probably too dry for an article about pop music. Different topics call for different approaches.
Use keywords, and use them well. By now, most online content creators know the importance of using keywords. Keywords help search engines, and by extension, the people doing searches on search engines, find your content. But mere keyword-stuffing is a poor tactic. If you use too many keywords, or use them to the point that your syntax becomes distorted and your content reads poorly, you’ll drive readers away just as quickly as you attract them.
Proofread. Remember, writing is rewriting. You can’t just sit at your computer and type out a masterpiece in one shot. This is another basic and ancient rule of writing, and it may be the most important one, especially on the Internet, where mistakes can live forever.
Include a call to action. A call to action is essential for any marketing or sales copy. You can give readers all the information you want, but unless they’re motivated to act upon it, all your efforts have been in vain. So take this advice, and apply it to your own writing!