Writing for online tips
Want your audience to engage with your content? Use these tips to help write for online.
We behave very differently when we’re reading online compared to in print. For a start, we scan content in an F pattern instead of reading left to right, line by line. As a result, you need to change the way you write to really connect with your reader. Luckily, using these copywriting tips will give you a better chance of landing your message.
Keep your reader front and center
Firstly, think about the action you want your audience to take after reading your message. What info do they need-to-know to take that action? Focusing on this helps you to cut out the waffle and keeps your message as interesting as possible.
Use a conversational tone
Neuroscience shows that our brains think we’re chatting away even if we’re reading conversational text on a page. Using contractions, being direct (you and your) and writing in the first or second person all help switch our brains on.
Front-load your paragraphs
Sum up the message of each paragraph in the very first sentence. Next, follow up with the what, how, where, when and why. If you do this, your reader will only need to read the first sentence to understand your message. Then it’s up to them if they decide to read more.
Keep paragraphs (and sentences) short
Long paragraphs look intimidating online. Plus they’re hard to scan. Instead, try sharing one idea per paragraph and keep it to 25-50 words max. Always take up opportunities to break up long sentences too.
Use the simplest word available
Notice we didn’t write ‘utilise’ simple words? If you can think of a simpler word that does the same trick, go for the easy option. Firstly, it’s quicker to read and understand. Secondly, it improves the readability of your text.
Use descriptive subheadings
Subheadings make it extremely quick and easy to scan content online. Even if your viewer doesn’t read every word, they should still be able to get the gist from your subheadings.
Replace paragraphs with bullet-points and numbered lists
- Lists help to summarise key points clearly and concisely
- They make it easier to scan
- As a result, they’re friendlier to readers
Use bold type for important words or phrases
Using bold words will help your audience to quickly scan through your content. Therefore, they gain a better understanding of the key takeaways.
Make calls to action (CTA) urgent
A CTA is a line of text that prompts your reader to do something (e.g. “take two minutes to contact Bundle today!”). Make them prominent, active and urgent.
Always use left-aligned text
Our eyes love a bit of consistency. Centred or justified text (when the text falls flush with both margins) is trickier for our eyes to read as the spacing between each word is different. Make it easy for your reader.
White space is good
It’s the space in between paragraphs. It’s important as it helps to break up content so it’s easier to take in. It also makes pages online seem much less intimidating to the reader. Plus it helps your text stand out more.
Use an active voice
Passive voices come across as weak, awkward and unnecessarily wordy. An active voice emphasises energy, and directness and keeps your reader engaged.
More useful copywriting tips:
- The Plain English Campaign champions clear and concise communication.
- The Writer’s online style guide answers any grammatical quandary.
- Daily Writing Tips email do what they say on the tin. Funny that.