Blog | Academy for Nonprofit Excellence - Tidewater Community College -

Writing for the Web

November 23, 2016

Quick: What's the last in-depth article you read on the web? The last time you read the instructions before filling out a web form? What's the welcome message on your favorite site?

If you're like most web users, the answers are never, never, and don't know. We don't read writing on the web word for word—we scan it, using headlines and bullets as quick clues to content, and we make guesses at how things work. 

Yet when we write copy for the web, we often write lengthy introductions, dense paragraphs, and detailed instructions—and we count on our audience reading every word.

In fact, people usually spend a minute or less on a web page, and according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, "on the average webpage, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely." 

Writing tips

So how do you write content for the web? A few tips to start with:

  • Keep your writing short, simple and obvious—no clever wordplay, lengthy intros, or long dense paragraphs.
  • Write like your readers—use the language and level they would probably use. 
  • Write clear, simple, descriptive headlines and links; clever headlines distract from important content.
  • Use the pyramid writing style that journalists use—put the most important info at the beginning.
  • Break up your copy—use subheads, bullets, numbered lists, paragraph breaks, etc. to help with the scanning process.
  • Put related content together, and use diagrams or illustrations when needed.
Find out more

Want to know more? Attend TCC's course, Growing a Great Website: How to Deliver Effective, Appealing Content, or check out some of the great resources online.

Two to start with: