- By Althea Tan
- Published 10/17/2008
- Writing for the Web
I did not believe Shakespeare when he said that brevity is the soul of wit. It is, I believed, simply not my style. Going forward, though, reading a wide variety of works changed my mind. The challenge to any writer is to make the article clear, concise, and readable. After all, the purpose of writing is to express. The simpler the language, the more people understand and appreciate what I write. The wider my audience, the more effective my writing becomes. Brevity in writing copy While this principle applies to practically all types of writing, I’ve realized that its importance is amplified when I write copies for the web. As a typical web user who relies on search engines, I can attest to the effectivity of short copies versus longer ones. Sure, an attractive, catchy title may lure me into a site, but a huge block of text, not to mention unsightly design and obtrusive advertisements, usually discourages me. Normally, I just read the first few lines and click close. In doing so, I realize that that particularly copy has just failed. This isn’t saying that the quality of the writing is bad per se. As a user pressed for time, however, I don’t even get the chance to scan through the whole thing just because of the text-heavy impression it gives. I’ve always said this: in the harsh competition for clicks on the web, you only have a second or two to make it work. Brevity = simplicity
creating an impression, keeping web copy short increases its readability. Note that brevity doesn’t equate to being boring or dull. On the other hand, I realize that the real test for an excellent writer is achieving the most powerful effect in using as few words as possible. On some occasions, I alternate short- and medium-length sentences. This increases the impact of the copies I write. More often than not, though, a short copy not only pleases the eye, it gives the impression that I know what I am talking about because I am able to keep everything tight. When long copies are needed Long copies aren’t always evil though. I’ve encountered complicated topics that required longer explanations. What do I do during these instances? I try to keep my article neat, organized and simple. It is possible to do this by grouping ideas accordingly. In these cases, the page’s design and layout go hand-in-hand with the writing style. A long copy can appear short and condensed if ideas are grouped suitably into topics. And if a copy is simply too long to appear on a single webpage, no one’s stopping me from providing a link to another page.
Another device I use when writing longer copies are subheads. They’re a great tool in guiding visitors to the bits of information they need. I also make sure that the gist of a paragraph or a series of paragraphs is found on the initial part. That way, a user will stay and possibly bookmark my page for future reference. If customers find the site content useful and relevant, they will come back.