Wow, that’s a bit harsh, I know. But there are certain things your high school English teacher taught you that may be holding you back where online writing is concerned.
Yes, it still pains me a bit every time I start a sentence with “and” or “but” or “I”, but here’s the deal. Writing online is a whole different ballgame than writing an essay for English class or even a print article.
5 Ways to Improve Your Online Writing Skills
1. Keep It Skimmable: The main reason online writing is its own ballgame boils down to one thing – readers tend to skim the page when online. It’s true! Check it out next time you hop onto a website. Do you read every word? No way! That’s why websites (the effective ones, anyway) offer their copy up in easily digestible blocks. So that readers can skim and search for what they want, and get on to the next point. We are talking short paragraphs, numbered lists (voila), pull quotes, bolded text, images … anything to break up the content and parcel it out.
2. When to Go Long: Of course, there are times when long form writing is best. A sales page is one example of long form writing that is super effective because it shares a lot of information a potential customer needs before it sees the big, blingy BUY button. Even some blog posts require long form writing, like those that go in depth on a subject with lots of research and expert backing, for example. Remember though, you can write long form content that is still skimmable and easy to read.
3. Strike Up a Convo: The most basic point to keep in mind, other than skimmability, when writing for your website or other online spot is to write in a conversational tone. And the best way to get good at this is to write the way you speak. The minute you publish a post or page that is sentence heavy and English class approved, you are taking your readers to snoozeville.
Writing the way you speak will help to get that convo-flow going…
4. Sprinkle, Don’t Shake: So, conversational is good. But know your limits, here. Writing the way you speak will help to get that convo-flow going, but you want your copy to sound professional and get the point across. In other words, a little bit of slang or funky speak sprinkled in is fine if that’s you, and this even delivers your brand voice. Too much leaves your reader wondering what the heck they’ve just read. If you wonder whether you’ve overdone it, you probably have.
5. Stick to Some Basics: Now, back to English basics. Writing in a conversational manner that scores high on readability doesn’t mean you can get by with using poor grammar or misspelling words. This is not a slap it on the page and your all good type of thing. Online writing is a craft just like any other type of writing. It takes a little practice and, like most things, gets easier the more you do it. If writing isn’t in your wheelhouse, run your copy through a spell and punctuation checker, or have a pro take a look before you hit publish.
What if your brand is more refined, totally by the book, no funny stuff. Can this style of writing still be professional? Absolutely! Even if your brand voice is more profesh and less laid back, you STILL need to write in a way that is easily scannable so your readers can get to the good stuff. Which is exactly where your content should lead them.