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Writing for the web needs a different approach to writing for printed publications. Web users do not "read" websites in the traditional way, they scan and skim the page looking for the information they need. And if they don't find what they want, the next website is never more than a click away.

Web copy needs to be shorter, punchier, and tighter. Here are some top tips to get your web content up to scratch.

1. Be concise - stay focused
When writing for the web, be brief and get to the point quickly. Bear in mind that most people 'scan' a computer screen rather than 'read' it in the traditional sense.
Don't bury information. Too many lengthy paragraphs and your customer may start to lose interest - and you could lose a sale.
TIP: put the most important information near the top of the page - then your user cannot miss it, this technique is known as the 'inverted pyramid' or 'front-loading' style.

2. Emphasise your product/service's features
Try to emphasise your product/service's benefits to the customer, not simply its features. What are the unique selling points of your product/service and how do they benefit your customer?

3. Get personal
Try to speak directly to your customers. What do they need to know in order to make a decision to try out your products or service? Anticipate the questions they may have, and give them the answers.

4. Make it snappy
Make your site easy to read by breaking up large blocks of text. Think shorter words, shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs.
TIP: too much scrolling can be off-putting so try and keep your pages short and snappy.

5. Make important keywords stand out
Make important keywords stand out using text decoration such as bold, colour, size, etc. This makes it easier for users to pick out your key phrases.
TIP: be careful not to use too many different styles of text decoration on one page, or you could make your text hard to read.

6. Good navigation is critical
Remember that good navigation is critical - if users can't find their way around your website they will soon lose interest. Web users don't want to work too hard to find information. Make it easy by having clear, consistent navigation menus in the same place on every page. Don't forget good internal links too.

7. Always use 'plain English'
Write in
plain English - which means avoiding jargon and unnecessarily complicated words, using the active voice (ie 'Jake read the book', rather than 'The book was read by Jake'), and using short sentences and paragraphs. Visit www.plainenglish.co.uk to find out more.

8. Content is king!
Your website may look pretty, but your content needs to be up to scratch too. Make sure it is regularly updated to keep it fresh. One of the most common user complaints is that websites do not contain the information they need.

9. Quality control your content
Finally, make sure your web content is well-written and well-edited - spelling mistakes and typos can undermine a potential customer's confidence in your business! If in doubt get a professional proofreader to read your site and test all the links and navigation tools - it is money well-spent.

Sounds easy, but if you don't have the time or expertise to write or edit your own web copy, then let us help! Our freelance copywriting, copy-editing and proofreading services are priced at affordable hourly rates, with no minimum charge.

Contact us to see how we can help your web content work harder for you. Or read our Web Editor FAQs.

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This site is copyright E J Cooper t/a Amberweb UK, Surrey. Last updated 25 February 2010.
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