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An article from the Internet to help us with our writing style for web site articles.

Chris Lake is Director of Content at Econsultancy and has published the following

HOW TO WRITE FOR THE WEB

STARTING OUT

The Braindump rule

One of the best ways of writing an article is to quickly pour out your thoughts, and then to finesse the finer points once you have a structure for your post. That’s how I’m writing this one: I’ve written out the rules and am now filling in the detail.

The Write The Opening Paragraph Last rule

I often start an article by writing an introduction, only to completely change it after I’ve finished the piece. Don’t labour over your opening: it will pretty much write itself once you have the bulk of the post in the bag.

WRITING & FORMATTING

The One Comma rule

This is fairly new one. Multiple-comma sentences can often be reworked to just include one comma. Keeps things nice and concise. There are all kinds of exceptions, so this one is certainly not set in stone.

The Short Sentences rule

Shorter sentences are better than longer ones. If in doubt, use a full stop and move on. That is all.

The Lo-fi Punctuation rule

This follows on from the last rule. Ideas need to be digestible for it to sink in and make a difference to the reader. Excessive punctuation suggests that sentences might be overly-long and complicated, when they need to be to the point and simple.

The Five-Line Paragraphs Might Be One Line Too Many rule

When I see a page with numerous 15-line unformatted paragraphs my right hand starts to twitch. I subconsciously think about hitting the ‘back’ button. This isn’t about my inability to read a dense paragraph, it is about the writer making it easy for the reader. Aesthetics are so important online: first impressions really matter. Try to break up your articles into bite-sized chunks. Avoid multi-idea sentences and paragraphs.

The Wiggly Left Margin rule

Some articles need to be longer than others. Pay attention to the formatting of these posts. A long article with all paragraphs lined up neatly, flush to the left margin, is going to be more of a challenge to read than one all broken up. Here’s what you can use to help mess things up a bit, to keep the reader’s eye interested: indents, bullet points, quotes, numbered lists, pictures and videos.

The Sub-Headers FTW rule

Again, these help break up the page and sort your page content into easily-digestible chunks and are great for readers who skim your page before tuning in properly. This article obviously contains 23 of them, which should hopefully help make it more readable.

The Bold As Highlighting Rule

I use bold to highlight certain phrases / words / sentences, particularly in longer articles. It’s about identifying some of the key takeaways, rather than about being rubbish at making my points stand out. It’s not about shouting either: bold is not the bastard child of CAPS LOCK. It just helps readers to make sense of a page when skim reading it, and provides a neat anchor for the eye.

HEADLINE RULES

The Awesome Adjectives In Headlines rule

Headlines that include awesome adjectives tend to attract a lot more interest. Adjectives can be highly persuasive. Try to incorporate them into your headlines.

The Keyword Phrases rule

I optimise my headlines around keyphrases, rather than individual keywords. Front load keyphrases for maximum impact.

The One Line Headlines rule

I tend to use maybe six to eight words in a headline, to try to keep it on a single line. Nothing is worse than overdoing it by one word, which appears as an ‘orphan’ on the second line. This is mainly for aesthetic reasons.

TONE & VOICE

The Plain English rule

Avoid jargon. Say what you see. Don’t dress things up too much.

The Conversational Tone rule

Not so much a rule as an affliction. I basically write as I think / talk. I think that’s ok for blogs, and maybe ok full stop.

The Humour rule

Sometimes it may not be appropriate, but a little light humour can work wonders, especially when dealing with seemingly dry subject matter.

The Personality rule

It is essential to define your own voice and to allow the reader to get to know you a little bit. It’s a noisy world out there and I prefer to read articles with a bit of verve, rather than straight-down-the-middle news reporting. Try to stand out from the crowd. Dare to be different. Show a little leg. Whatever it takes…

WRAPPING IT UP

The Check Your Facts rule

I’ll often write an article quickly, without worrying too much about the fine print. But before publishing it is wise to tune into the specifics, and to make sure what you’re saying is accurate. Sounds obvious, I know, but it is hugely important.

The Am I A Dickhead? rule

This follows on from the above fact-checking rule, but also extends to the copy on the page (not just typos / grammar issues, but formatting too). After publishing I self-edit my posts probably five or six times on average. That’s how many mistakes I’ll find. Spellchecker is never enough, folks. The law of irony means that I’ll have no doubt left at least one error in this post…

The Internal Link rule

I try to add at least one internal link per article, and often write articles simply to support other pages on our website. Don’t miss the chance to push readers towards other interesting content. Keep an eye open for linking opportunities before you hit the publish button.

The Invite Feedback rule

I tend to finish articles on a ‘What did I miss?’ or ‘What do you think?’ question, to encourage comments.

So, with that in mind, what do you think? What works for you?