11 Tips for Online Writing

Chances are you’re already doing some online writing, whether it’s a full blog post or a caption for a picture on Facebook.Online writing is becoming incredibly common and for all audiences, so what are the requirements for good online writing?

First, I’ll explain the difference between online writing and print writing. There are honestly quite a lot of similarities between the two styles of writing, but print is allowed to be a little lengthier. The layout of magazines draws the reader with colors and illustrations. Magazines tend to be a little more artsy, meaning that you can add a little more flair to your work to catch the reader’s attention.

Reading articles online is a lot harder than reading them in print, so people don’t read web articles, they scan them. They pick out headings, sentences, and phrases. If that quick scan is an information overload or not interesting enough, they will notcontinue reading. Studies have shown that web articles should be about half the length of print articles.

Here are some rules for web writing:

  1. Keep it short. If you can say in it two words, do it. Think of the simplest way to say that still makes sense. Short, powerful statements are best, especially for social media.
  1. Grab their attention. Titles are the most important part. If you don’t have a good title that tells readers exactly why they should click and read, you won’t get read. Use action words.

That doesn’t mean you have to put “Mom gave birth to baby with three heads. What happens next will make you cry…” Don’t be tacky, but make it interesting. A common trend right now is “7 Ways…” or “How to…” type of things. Putting “Faith Gives You Wings,” is pretty, but putting “4 Ways to Strengthen Your Faith” is clear and SEO-friendly (easy to search).

  1. Be clear. Have someone who has no idea what you’re writing about read your article and tell you what they think the main message is. Do they get it? If not, rewrite until they do.
  1. Make it conversational. If you’re struggling with writing something simply, think of how you could explain it to your mother/grandmother.
  1. Break it into chunks. Large blocks of text are intimidating for web readers. If it’s too long, try breaking it up. Web readers like more white space, because it is much less intimidating to read three short chunks than huge paragraphs.


Don’t do this.

Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail. In 1996, some of the most popular places were Fort Robinson State Park (355,000 visitors), Scotts Bluff National Monument (132,166), Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum (100,000), Carhenge (86,598), Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (60,002), and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (28,446).


Do this.

In 1996, six of the most-visited places in Nebraska were:

  • Fort Robinson State Park
  • Scotts Bluff National Monument
  • Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum
  • Carhenge
  • Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
  • Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park

Though, unless you’re writing for a travel company, your audience may not be incredibly interested in Nebraska (see number 9).

  1. Stay informative. If it’s not entirely relevant, cut it. Stay informative rather than trying to be clever or witty, especially with titles and subheadings. Don’t use clichés.
  1. Make it interesting to look at. Web doesn’t always have a pretty layout or illustrations to draw in the reader. Images and videos break up the text and are interesting. If you want to hold attention, include relevant, well-done images that catch the eye.
  1.     Cite sources. Online readers are a little more skeptical, so make sure you cite your sources. Relevant links are also great to get the readers to engage with more material.
  1.     Know your audience. Picture the people you are writing to in your mind’s eye. Go through the article as if you were that kind of reader and make changes to better fit the text to your audience. Select material that fits the needs of your audience.
  1. Highlight keywords. Hyperlinks are one way to do this, but you can also use bolding and/or color variation.
  1. List-icles are great. Lists are great way to break things up. Write a bolded short sentence at the beginning that summarizes what the rest of the list segment will be about. Don’t use solid blocks of text in lists. Break it up.


Clarity and simplicity are the keys here. When in doubt, make it simpler.

Follow these steps and you’re well on your way to becoming a quality online writer.

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