12 Tips on Writing for the Web

Provided by the Good News Web Designers Association

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A good webpage not only looks good and is easy to use, but it also reads right. Content is highly important, and if you write poorly, no one will take you as seriously as you hoped. And yet, few web designers are experienced authors.

Therefore, GNWDA member Annette Dammer, of We-eee! Writers' Ministries, shares these 12 tips. Annette is a journalist and English instructor.

#1: Focus
Each page should have just one focus. If you can't explain your "topic" in one sentence, you might want to reorganize.

My focus for this page? "Provide 12 ways to write clearly and effectively for a web ministry." Those 12 will be the "outline" I follow as I write.

Fuzzy focus = fuzzy reception.

#2: Keep It Short
The web is a high-speed read. Most visitors don't have time to gently peruse War & Peace.  Not here. Maybe not anywhere.

If you want to offer more text/details, offer a link to documents they can download/print and read later.

Keep sentences short, too. (Notice the length of my sentences.)

It's not about "writing for dummies." That would demean.

It's about clarity. Most visitors browse for interest.
Let them know your point - quick before they click!

#3: Be Clear. Concise. Communicate.
Get rid of redundant, repetitive, repeating, extra words and fancy-pants, high-paradin', chatterbox ways. Verbosity can be perceived as arrogant, exacerbating, voraciously time consuming, provides distance between the content, author and audience. In conclusion - it irritates!

better:
Remove redundant, rambling, repetitive words, especially when they are distracting, and the target audience will most likely come closer to realizing your projected message.

or better yet:
Take out unnecessary words and your reader will get The Message.

Do I hear an Amen?

#4: Play to Your Audience
Who is your reader? Will they understand "church speak"? Are they "Seekers" who will be frightened away?

However, if they are steeped in training and comfortable with theological references, a deep, theological site will appeal and minister to them.

Who is your audience? What is their interest? Speak in their language and they will hear you...

#5: How Can You Serve?
How can you be a servant? This is my main goal. Christ asked me to and it makes good business sense, as well.

To serve my reader, I must discern their needs. For example, at TEEN LIGHT, a ministry in which I'm involved, we know that teens need financial aid, contests for their talents and publishing opportunities. We link to the very best resources, even though they have nothing to do with the teen2teen Christian arts mag we publish.

If we have what teens need, what they appreciate, they will return often.

#6: Keep It Active
Unless speaking of history, it is best to stay in active voice. Active voice helps the reader experience your ministry. They are here!

The child had been starving for days.
OR... The child was starving.

OR... Hungry, John starves slowly. The child hasn't eaten today. He didn't eat yesterday.

Nothin' fancy. Simple, clear, concise. Active voice.

#7: Why Should They Care?
Again, who is your reader? What makes them care? Children? Education? Try to see through their eyes and speak to their hearts. We all have different viewpoints and different callings.

#8: Easy On The Eyes
Smoosh your reader and irritate them.

Probably not your goal.

But the same applies to print. I spent years as a reporter, and we valued "white space." We left comfortable amounts of white on each page. It is where the reader rests.

Some shriek at two-sentence paragraphs; however, in a speed read format, short paragraphs make quick perusals comfortable and easy.

Break up long paragraphs. If you must keep it "long," highlight natural breaking points or bold your main points.

Break up long copy with dark, mini headlines, or bold the first sentence of each section.

Again, the goal is reader comfort.

#9: Don't Get Burnt
Never publish your first draft.

You wouldn't eat a cookie right out of the oven. Let your writing "cool" overnight so you don't get burnt. If possible, have a strong reader/writer proof it.

The point is, a small error can make a big mess. I once published a Society piece on the elite Burns' Supper Club.

By typo I renamed them: The Bums' Supper Club.

They, um, "thanked" me the very next day!

#10: How Would YOU Say It?
Always read your writing out loud. Read to a friend by phone, to your dog or to yourself. You want to make sure you'd actually "say" what is written.

If the dog cocks an ear and twists his head, you might need to revise.

Clear, personal, one-on-one.

That's how you speak. Speak to your reader and they will hear you!

#11: Spell Cheek
Exactly. For whatever reason, my corrections always leave additional errors. I try to spell-check after any change at all - certainly before uploading my page to the Web. Even more important, don't trust spell-check. "Bums" and "burns" are both correct, and computers make no distinction between God and dog.

A small error can cause a big problem.

#12: Just Do It
You can. Your Father will make sure of it.

And you speak to people all the time. Just write the words down.

If you can't spell, if grammar gives you nightmares, don't worry. Find a friendly editor. Moses had Aaron; God will send you what you need.

The point is, you've been called to do this. God helped Moses, He's got a plan for us. We just need the faith to get moving.

Our Father delights in helping us.

Why wouldn't He?

God bless you as you move forward!


Annette Dammer is the founder of We-eee! Writers' Ministries. Her group publishes the teen2teen Christian arts magazine, TEEN LIGHT. Feel free to contact her at publisher@writersministries.com.

Download this tutorial as a printable Word Document.

EXTRA TIPS

Interest is important. Readers are one click away from missing the message.

When you find a site that "speaks" to you, ask yourself why. Pray on it.

Get the help you need. If grammar isn't your strength, there are a variety of online help sites. Just search for "grammar."

I teach Writing at a community college. But I find that the QUALITY sites built to teach grammar to younger kids are quite effective for adults, too - and an easy read!

Let nothing stop you. Especially fear.

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).

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