Writing for the Web
Good style is not just a question of taste. This is true for home furnishings just as much as for writing texts for the web. Part Three in the series “Writing for the Web” describes how to become more focused and choose the correct words.
Good and bad taste: the rules of style!
Style is a matter of taste – on the one hand. But on the other hand, there are general rules that you can use to achieve a confident style in your texts while ensuring that they remain neutral:
Your aim is to captivate and enthral your readers. You want them not only to start reading, but to continue or even finish reading your text. What is your opinion of the following sentences?'
“The implementation of modern auction systems in the Web is nowadays performed without much effort. The individual auction process has experienced huge acceleration as a result of these systems.”
Pompous? Meaningless? Laborious? Then you agree with the majority of those who participated in a survey conducted by author Ekkehard Schmider in a seminar. Why do we regard the text as stiff, difficult to understand and also boring? This is why:
The syllable “-tion” sounds authoritative!
Whether implementation or acceleration: the author of the sample text has turned strong verbs (implementing, accelerating) into ineffective nouns – he is using a nominal writing style, which usually sounds authoritative. The text sounds like legal jargon and hardly any of your readers on the web are going to find it attractive. It is better to leave out such words and use the original verb instead. This will strengthen your message:
Avoid passive constructions!
It would be better to write: “The programmer installs the software on the computers.”
Don’t use adjectives!
Only use adjectives if they add an important aspect to your statement. Adjectives can quickly become linguistic softeners and reduce the strength of your text. The same applies to superlatives, the highest form of comparison for adjectives. Some web writers even use comparatives or superlatives with absolute adjectives such as “ideal” or “perfect”, as shown in the following examples:
Negations, negative or imprecise statements are confusing!
Read our first example once again. The author writes “without much effort”. If you express this positively, it would read “with a normal amount of effort”. The implementation is therefore performed with a normal amount of effort – and you are faced with a zero-benefit statement that offers the reader absolutely no added value. An exact statement using man-days, for example, would be better. Precise data and values help readers to understand what you are offering. You’ll be doing them a favour!
Observe these additional rules:
It is admittedly quite difficult to write a text while implementing all this information. However, with a bit of practice you will become focused and the web writing rules will soon become second nature.
A few words on search engines
Now you are able to convey your message to your readers using understandable and well-chosen words. But how do you enable search engines to understand and correctly interpret the content of your pages? We will focus on that topic in the next part of our series Writing for the Web.