Seven Deadly Sins Of Web Writing

    July 28, 2003

What’s the single most important thing that could improve the Web? It’s not broadband. It’s better writing. The general quality of writing on the Web is poor. The way you write has a major impact on what people think of you. Avoid these common mistakes and you will achieve more with your website.

Deadly sin number 1: I think I’m God You cannot sell the organization by selling the organization. Face the facts. People are mean on the Web. They’re only out for themselves. “We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary!” “So?” “50 percent off because it’s our 50th anniversary!” “Happy anniversary!”

Never ever start a heading or a sentence with your company name. Always start with the need of your target reader. Before you write, repeat to yourself: “It’s not about me. It’s about my reader, my customer.”

Deadly sin number 2: I go on and on and on … It is an unfortunate fact that those who have least to say, often write most. Quality web writing is rarely about volume and it is never about padding. If you expect someone to read more than 500 words on a single topic, it better be extraordinarily good. Get to the point. Then stop.

Deadly sin number 3: I can’t spell and I’ve awful grammar If you can’t spell and you’ve awful grammar, you’re not going to make it as a business writer. Take up avant garde fiction, but forget about writing for the Web. Good web writing is difficult. It requires a lot of skill and experience. Also, sloppy emails create a very bad impression.

Deadly sin number 4: I’m locked in a print view of the world Writing for the Web is not the same as writing for print. If you can’t see the difference, you need to look harder. Web writers write for how people search. They always finish their content with a set of links. They write great metadata for every piece of content they write.

Web writers never say: “How do I quickly get this brochure up on the website? I know, I’ll convert it to PDF!” Rather, they say: “How do I create content that works on my website; that logically fits into my classification?

Deadly sin number 5: I’m not very good at writing headings If you’re not good at writing headings, you better find someone who is. Headings are the single most important piece of content you will write on the Web. Keep them short (no more than eight words). Keep them clear and descriptive. Avoid being clever. Your headings should contain the most important keywords for your content.

Deadly sin number 6: Actually, I don’t think content is very important It amazes me the number of people responsible for websites who have little or no understanding of the value of content. Content matters. It really does. Great content makes your organization look great. It’ll sell more products. You’ll have happier customers. Your brand will be enhanced.

Poor content is worse than no content. Amateur content makes you look like an amateur organization. Nobody should be managing a website unless they have a deep understanding of content.

Deadly sin no 7: Don’t have seven points if there’s only six…

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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