Most people would agree that reading print is less stressful than reading online. You don’t have to worry about flashing signs and popup ads appearing when trying to get information, nor do you have to worry about changing the level of brightness on your monitor for that perfect image. Yes sir, reading in print is much easier to deal with and has fewer distractions, except for the occasional telephone ringing, a dog barking, or your significant other vying for your attention. When reading print publications you at least know that it has been professionally reviewed and edited. In other words, a lot of time-consuming work and man-hours went to perfecting your reading experience.

The same goes for web copy and website content (two different types of online writing that tend to intertwine with each other). There’s a saying that says, “anyone can publish online”. This is true and there are tons of pros and cons that go along with it. People who write well online tend to be quite successful. Those that struggle with their writing tend to limit their success. However, the Internet does offer countless opportunities for people to improve their writing.

Unfortunately, there are many people who write and publish on the web who lack the basic grammar skills that should have been taught properly in grade school. Many of these people end up spending most of their life unaware that they have weak grammar. Otherwise, they would have realized that it’s easily fixable. Furthermore, had they realized that their writing wasn’t up to par with their competition (assuming that their writing is used to promote or sell something), they would have taken greater lengths to ensure it meets a higher standard.

This is especially important in the age of the internet. There is so much information and content being passed throughout the web with millions of websites competing for your attention. Since there is an abundance of information out there, we tend to skim through the endless list of websites on the internet. We do this to see which pages are appealing enough to meet our thirst for reliable and accurate information that is free of typos, easily readable, and to the point.

Here are some simple and effective techniques that professional writers use to ensure that their online content not only makes them look good but also provides you (the reader) with a pleasurable online reading experience.

1. Keep sentences short and simple and to the point (Hemmingway style).

Ernest Hemingway knew that people had short attention spans. Must have been from his journalism background. He perfected the art of forming short and concise sentences in his writing and it caused a major trend in writing styles that continues today.

2.) Avoid long paragraphs like the plague.

Make sure your content is broken up into small chunks of paragraphs. The last thing you want is to make your writing text look intimidating and long. It’ll be a major turnoff for those considering reading it.

3.) Use active voice rather than passive voice in your sentences.

The active voice is highly preferred by most readers because it identifies the action and who is performing that action in a very clear and straightforward way.  The passive voice is the opposite of active voice. It tends to be very wordy, indirect, and often adds more words than needed. Also, it tends to add multiple sentences into one gigantic sentence that reads atrociously. Passive voice is often used in bureaucratic documents in the legal, government, and academic fields. Unfortunately, a lot of people learn this in college and never realize that it doesn’t work in the real world. Active voice is the way to go and is widely used in business writing in order to effectively communicate a message.

Passive Voice Example:                      Active Voice Example:

The lake was polluted by the company.

The company polluted the lake.

New regulations were proposed.

We proposed new regulations.

The following information must be included in the application for it to be considered complete.

You must include the following information in your application.

Bonds will be withheld in cases of non-compliance with all permits and conditions.

We will withhold your bond if you don’t comply with all permit terms and conditions.

Regulations have been proposed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

We have proposed regulations.

The permit must be approved by the agency’s State office.

Our State office must approve your permit.

Source: www.plainlanguage.com

4.) Don’t write B.S.

Some people think they can B.S. their way out of everything including in writing online content. However, B.S. won’t cut it because “empty writing” is easily recognizable, especially since the reader can go back and critique the content word for word. Make sure you give your readers something interesting and useful to read. Remember, fluff is marshmallow goo you want on chocolate and graham crackers, not your web copy/content.

5.) Write for a general audience

Know your audience. There’s a time to write fancy and use high-class words, especially when it’s tailored for a specific audience. Remember, everyone from all walks of life will most likely read your writing. So keep it simple and geared towards a general audience. Save the fancy writing for the special occasion. Besides, it’ll show you have versatility in writing techniques.

These are just a few tips to help ensure that your online writing is up to par with professional standards. The key is to always strive to improve your writing while recognizing your weaknesses. With practice and determination, you’ll find that you have what it takes write well.

Originally Written on August 16, 2012