1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Write and edit with online readers’ needs and habits in mind. Web usability studies show that readers tend to skim over sites rather than read them intently.
2. WRITE LIVELY AND TIGHT
Writing for the Web should be a cross between broadcast and print tighter and punchier than print, but more literate and detailed than broadcast writing. Write actively, not passively.
Good broadcast writing uses primarily tight, simple declarative sentences and sticks to one idea per sentence. It avoids the long clauses and passive writing of print. Every expressed idea flows logically into the next. Using these concepts in online writing makes the writing easier to understand and better holds readers’ attention.
Don’t let yourself get caught up in the 24/7 wire-service mentality and think all that matters is that you have the latest news as fast as possible. Speed is important online. But people want to know not just what happened, but why it matters. And with all the information sources out there now, in the end it will be the sites that explain the news the best that succeed. Write and edit all your stories with this in mind.
4. NEVER BURY THE LEAD
You can’t afford to bury the lead online because if you do, few readers will get to it. When writing online, it’s essential to tell the reader quickly what the story is about and why they should keep reading or else they won’t.
5. BREAK IT UP
Larger blocks of text make reading on screens difficult, and you’re more likely to lose readers. Using more subheads and bullets to separate text and ideas helps. Writing should be snappy and fast to read. Keep paragraphs and sentences short. You should be able to read an entire sentence without pausing for a breath.
6. ELIMINATE THE GUESSWORK
People often don’t know what they’re going to get when they click on stuff. And people are not going to click on something unless they know what they’re getting. When they click on something that’s not worth it, they lose trust in you as a source and are less likely to come back and click on things in the future. So make sure you tell people what they’re going to get.
7. DO NOT FEAR THE LINK
Don’t be afraid to link. Many sites have a paranoid fear that if they include links to other sites, readers will surf away and never return. Not true! People prefer to go to sites that do a good job of compiling click-worthy links’ witness Yahoo’s success. If people know they can trust your site, they will come back for more.