Seven Rules About Writing for a Membership Website

Brevity is the soul of wit, according to the Bard. And all the more so online. So of course, someone created rules for you to follow when writing for the Web. OK, so maybe they are more like guidelines than hard and fast laws of cyber language. That said, here is what you want to strive for in most of your content.

Try to follow these seven guidelines when writing for the Web.

Be concise.

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The overall length of an Internet article or column is about one-third to one-half the length of a print article. Cut every word that doesn’t contribute.

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
—Blaise Pascal

Keep paragraphs short.
Two to five sentences are a good goal. The longer the paragraph, the less likely it will be read in its entirety. Use paragraph breaks to refresh the eye.

Use simple sentence structure.
Keep sentence structure simple so ideas are easy to digest. Write subject-verb-object.

Use one idea per paragraph.
Follow the idea with a few sentences of explanation.

Use present or present perfect tense.
The Web is an active medium: use this writing technique to keep your text fresh. Avoid the passive voice.

Note, that when a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus brevity is a by-product of vigor.
—William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

Use short, familiar words.
“Record heat” is better than “unprecedented high temperatures.”

Use layering and links to simplify complex material.
Keeps article length to one or two screens. Break out more detail by linking to another layer or page.

State idea one, idea two and idea three. Add “more” or descriptive links to pages containing further information.

A Final Caveat

As with all rules, there are exceptions.

One famous copywriter says, “It can never be too long; it can only be too boring!”

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