Writing for web isn’t easy. You can be a talented writer but still find yourself struggling to connect with an online audience. That’s because many of the usual rules go out the window.
Long introductions, elaborate descriptions and digressions don’t work for an online audience. They are surrounded by other distractions and temptations, so you need to make an impact fast.
So, let’s get straight to the point.
What are the common mistakes you need to avoid when writing for web?
1. Not hooking readers at the start
There is no time to beat around the bush when writing for web.
With an online audience you only have a small window to make an impact and a strong start to your blog post is key to getting that bounce rate down and extending readers’ time on your page.
This can be difficult if you come from an academic background. When writing an essay, you start by explaining what you’re going to discuss, then you discuss it, and finally, you draw your conclusion at the end.
Online writing is an entirely different beast. If your blog post doesn’t engage your reader and confirm to them straight away that your article can help them with their problem, then you’ll lose them.
To compel your audience to read on, HubSpot advocate that your first paragraph needs to:
- Grab the readers attention, e.g. with a story, a joke, an interesting fact or statistic
- Present the purpose of the post
- Explain how the post will help address the problem that brought your reader to it
These opening lines are about delivering on the promise you made in the title - and adding a little more. The reader needs to be thinking: yes, this blog post will help me.
2. Forgetting that clarity is king
People aren’t coming to your blog to be blown away by a literary masterpiece; they are looking for information and help around a problem they are facing. But sometimes the desire as a writer to craft beautiful sentences can lead you to meander and distract from the core message.
Being a good content writer means creating content that is readable, easy to follow, and easy to digest. The short attention span of your buyers demands sentences of 35 words or fewer and paragraphs of no more than four sentences. Avoid superfluous or unnecessary words or sentences. And don’t use words like “equanimity” when you can say “calm”.
3. Not leaving enough time for edits
When you’re under pressure to publish a blog post it can be tempting to declare it finished without allowing time for edits and rewrites. But neglecting this important step means you could miss out on turning something great into something even greater.
Ideally, you should be editing your writing once you’ve had a break away from it. You’ll come back with fresh eyes and view it with a new sense of curiosity and insight. It will be far easier to cut out unnecessary sentences or words and simplify things for your readers. This editing stage is often where the magic happens.
4. Trying to be perfect
This might sound contradictory given the last point, but while editing and rewriting is an important part of the process, if you insist on editing until it is perfect, you’ll never publish anything.
Sadly, perfection doesn’t exist. Accepting that fact will save you a lot of grief. And it will allow you to put more time and energy into writing your next piece of great content.
5. Not using active voice
When writing for web, it’s usually better to use active voice. But many writers fall into the trap of using the passive voice, especially if they come from an academic background where the passive voice tends to be preferred.
Take a look at this example:
Active voice: Santa delivers Christmas presents.
Passive voice: Christmas presents are delivered by Santa.
Do you feel the difference?
Active voice feels more direct and more engaging. Every word serves a purpose, allowing you to create concise, reader-friendly sentences that are crucial when writing for web.
If you’re not in the habit of writing in the active voice, tools like Grammarly can nudge you to do so. Grammarly will highlight any instances where you’ve used the passive voice and could benefit from using active voice instead.
6. Be conversational
Adopting a conversational tone in your writing isn't always easy to do, especially if you come from a more formal writing background. But as a transition from print media, blogging has paved the way for companies to take a more informal approach. Besides, your readers are people, after all, and you'll struggle to make a connection if you don't make your content human.
One easy and important tactic to adopt is addressing your reader as ‘you’. Try replacing stiff words like "furthermore" and "therefore" with "but" and "so". Don’t be afraid to use conjunctions at the start of a sentence either. Starting a sentence with “But”, “And” or “So” instantly feels more conversational.
All these nuances when writing for web allow you to create a sense of connection with your reader, keep them engaged, and make it sound more like a discussion than a lecture.
7. Forgetting about visuals
If you’re from an academic or journalistic background, chances are you might not have given much thought to the role visuals play in supporting your writing. But things like graphics, illustrations, images and videos can add a lot to your blog posts.
People aren't likely to hang off your every word. They’ll scan your post to find what they’re looking for, and this is where adding visual media can help. Visuals break up chunks of text, making it easier for people to find the information they need. They can also be used to convey information quickly.
But it’s not just about speed. As well as serving the skim readers, visuals also cater for those people looking for more depth and detail. They're great for adding additional detail in an interesting and engaging way. And if you’re sharing examples, don’t just explain or describe them, use images and illustrations to bring them to life.
The culture of content writing has exploded as more companies have started to think like publishers. This means there’s a lot of content out there vying for the attention of your ideal customers, and avoiding these common mistakes when writing for web has become more important than ever.