Three principles for better content

There’s a lot to consider when writing for the web — which is why there are thousands of books and articles out there dispensing advice.

But if your goal is writing better content, I think there are three core principles that apply universally: reading behavior, brevity, and information hierarchy.

Reading behavior is different online

Research suggests that we read differently online than we do in print. On the web, we tend to scan rather than read. We’re usually seeking specific information. We’re more impatient — and more easily distracted. That’s why …

Brevity is king

Effective web content must be scannable — which means it must be clear and concise. When writing for the web, shorter sentences are better. A self-editing method such as the 10% solution can help.

The same applies to paragraphs: It’s easier to scan several short (two- to five-sentence) paragraphs than a long block of text.

Information hierarchy matters

The structure of your writing matters, too. Put the most important information at the top of the page, and save details for subsequent paragraphs. (The journalist’s inverted pyramid writing style uses this approach.)

And don’t forget to use headings. Well-written headings can help the reader (and search engines) navigate your text — and they also break up your copy visually.
Want more ideas for improving your content?
Here are 10 rules for writers and some suggestions for writing better subject lines.

Text and images © Heather Munro.