Writing for the Web – Simple, Succinct & Scannable

Friday, 4 September 2015  |  Posted in: Articles  |  4min read

Your content is such an important factor in your website’s ability to attract and engage visitors for conversion and lead generation. These visitors have no compulsion to read your page so it is vital to entice them with quality content that they want to read and engage with.


People don’t read on the web. They scan.

Studies have shown that on the internet, 79% of people always scan the page first looking for specific keywords and phrases that relate to their query.

If you are presenting the content of your website as a wall of text that is difficult to scan, there is a high chance your valuable visitors will leave without ever attempting to discover your message.


Improve the readability of your website.

To improve the “scan-ability” of your website there are a number of methods you can use:


Use headings & sub headings

Your headings and sub headings help to break your content down into easily scannable blocks. When used effectively your visitor will know exactly what’s on the page by scanning the headings and sub headings. This type of reading is also known as F-reading.

An effective heading or sub heading is:

  • Ideally 5-10 words long
  • A summary of the content to follow

Follow up your heading with an opening paragraph of 10-25 words summarising the content to follow. Start with the information that is the most important to your visitor and then provide additional information. Each new section of information that follows is introduced by its own sub heading.

Short sentences – easier to read and display better on screen

Short sentences are a critical component of writing in plain English. They are easier to understand and easier to skim read from a screen. Long sentences can easily become confusing and garbled preventing the message you are trying to convey from reaching your target audience.

There is always a temptation when writing to add unnecessary words, phrases and sentences – particularly when writing for the web. Improve your content by being concise and eliminating excess words.

To assess the readability of your content try Microsoft Word’s readability tool. This tool is part of Word’s Spelling and Grammar check. While not perfect, it can give you an approximation of how readable your content is.


One idea per paragraph

Aim to have paragraphs that contain no more than five to six sentences per paragraph. It is perfectly acceptable to have one or two sentence paragraphs.

Each time you move on to a new idea, start a new paragraph. If it is also a new subtopic, add a sub-heading for scan-ability as well.


Bulleted and numbered lists

Bulleted and numbered lists can also improve the scan-ability of your content. They help a reader quickly identify key issues and facts by presenting them in list form.


Keep it Simple and Succinct

The best way to keep your content succinct is to know exactly what you are trying to say and why you are saying it. If you don’t know what your message is, how will your reader? Knowing what you are writing and why you are writing it will improve the overall quality of your work.

Spending time planning your content will result in higher quality content that your users want to engage with – whether you are writing a single new page or content for an entire new website.


Credibility matters

To keep your site credible avoid using jargon, catch phrases, industry specific acronyms or terms that the average person will not understand.

Give your visitors the facts, without being boastful. If you exaggerate your claims you risk losing credibility. Instead, boost your credibility with good writing, high quality graphics and outbound links. Outbound links show you have done your research and can support your claims.


Proof read

The final step before publishing any content on the web is to proof read. Use the Spelling & Grammar check but also have it proof read by one or two other people. Spell check tools do not catch typing errors such as “as” when the word used was supposed to be “is”. These kind of errors are damaging to the overall credibility of your site.

Ready to talk about your requirements?

Phone us on 1300 375 368 for an obligation-free chat with a digital specialist about how we can help to scale up your business online.

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