As a freelance writer for the web, it should be a goal of yours to continue to hone your craft and become a better writer over time.
Writing for the web can be a lot different than the writing you did in college, high school or even Corporate America. If you’re just getting started or looking to up your game when it comes to delivering your best work to clients (or working upstream towards getting better clients), here are five tips to help you improve.
Some may be familiar, but odds are there are a few you haven’t heard (or implemented) before.
Writing Tips for the Web
1. Stop Using Two Spaces After a Period
I’ll totally cop to the fact that I didn’t know/understand this rule of writing for the web when I started freelance writing. I even had to go back through my website content and first few blog posts (once I learned it better) to correct my formatting.
I’m a millennial, (currently 30) and seem to fall in the grey area on this subject. People just a few years younger than me were taught to write this way right off the bat in school. Others my age (or slightly older) weren’t. If you’re currently used to adding two spaces after every period, stop!
Right now – correct your ways and move onto the right way of writing for the web. You’ll be spotted as the newbie you are in two seconds flat otherwise!
2. Keep It Short
Practice using short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Readers are more likely to stay engaged and read your content (providing it’s good) if you keep it short and sweet.
Paragraphs should be between 2-5 sentences. By breaking up text into more paragraphs, it makes it easier to read and scan. This supports the way our society currently likes to read. It’s no secret we’re all on information overload and want to be able to determine if something is worth reading in as little as a few seconds.
Having your posts organized and cutting the fluff will help to keep readers engaged and coming back for more. After all, that’s the main point – isn’t it?
3. Use Headers and Subheaders
This tip piggybacks on the one above. It’s more a formatting issue than anything, but it helps to keep content easily scannable and engaging to the reader.
My numbered list of writing tips in this post is a great example of this. Not only do I outline a point I’m trying to make (with supporting text below), but I also use the Heading 2 option when doing so.
If you’re writing in the backend of WordPress, it’s as simple as change the text option from “paragraph” to “heading 2.” If you are writing in HTML, you would enclose the heading (or subheading) with h2 codes.
Here’s an example of how the above subheading would appear in HTML:
<h2>3. Use Headers and SubHeaders</h2>
Headers should never finish with a period. It’s okay for an occasional question mark or exclamation point though. Also, a great tool to make sure you’re capitalizing the right first letters of certain words, is TitleCase. I use it every single day!
4. Have a Strong Title
Your title should be attention grabbing and also include a keyword or two. Don’t make the mistake of making your title better than your text though, you want to be able to deliver on whatever promise you’re making to the reader in it!
Most of the time I’ll come up with my titles first, but that doesn’t have to be the case for you. Some writers find it easier to name their posts after writing them.
Either way, make sure that it fits the post that you’re trying to write, that it’s not too long (less than 90 characters is ideal) and that it contains at least one keyword. This will make it more suitable for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes.
5. Punctuation Should Always Be Inside a Quote
This gets missed a lot! Here’s an example of the wrong way to do it:
Sarah said, “I wish I didn’t make so many writing errors”!
The correct way:
Sarah said, “I wish I didn’t make so many writing errors!”
It’s probably most often missed with a period. It’s really important though and makes you look unprofessional if you do it often. Many interpret it as you not taking the time to edit your work. In my opinion, it’s just one of those grammar rules that is easily missed!
There are many formatting quirks and writing tips that I could have highlighted today. These are five that I see done wrong most often – that if you change, will make a big impact on your writing.
If you were like me, stop using two spaces after your periods. Start using shorter words, sentences and paragraphs.
Also, start using headers and subheaders and ensuring your punctuation appears inside of quotes. These may seem like small changes, but they are impactful!
Which of the above was most surprising to you or bothers you the most when reading other people’s work?
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