For old-school writers, adjusting to the new rules of online writing can be tricky. When you’re used to double spacing after sentences or getting your thoughts out in huge chunks of text, it’s tough to turn those old habits off—and who would blame you? But the problem is, sticking with outdated rules doesn’t just hurt your writing; it hurts your messaging and it hurts your career.
Rules for Writing on the Web
Here’s a list of online writing conventions that experienced writers can often miss—along with reasons for why it’s in your best interest to be paying attention to them.
One Space Between Sentences
Gone are the days of two spaces after each sentence. With the Internet, everything’s faster, including the way we type.
Traditional writing requires complete sentences, but online writing is less formal and makes allowances for things like fragments. The important thing to remember is communicating your message. Not grammar perfection.
Writing for Shorter Attention Spans
Online readers scan. They want information immediately. Online writers can work the format of webpages to their advantage by strategically using shorter paragraphs, frequent headers and subheaders, bulleted lists and images with their content.
More than any other medium, the Web has pushed writing to be more conversational. Information is constantly changing and being added to, and that creates the feel of a back-and-forth dialogue, which writing style should reflect.
Search Engine Optimization
When you write for the Web, you’re writing for search engines as well as readers, at least if you want readers to be able to find you. This means having an awareness of what keywords to work into your piece and how often to do it. For more information on this topic, see previous Straight North blog posts like “Why SEO Matters, No Matter How Brilliant You Think Your Content Is” and “5 Tips for SEO Friendly Content.”
Why Does This Matter?
Here’s the truth: as an online writer, you communicate to readers through more than your words—every stylistic decision, from spacing to fonts to commas—also works as a sort of language. That’s why understanding and utilizing the appropriate conventions is so important.
Paying attention to writing conventions offers a host of benefits, such as:
Think about it: the whole point of grammar and spelling has always been to enhance communication. Writing with an understanding of online style helps eliminate distractions that would keep readers from getting your message.
Writing in accordance with online style is like wearing a suit to a wedding: it’s appropriate. And acting appropriately does more than help you fit it—it helps you seem relevant and worth listening to.
When modern writers understand the importance of headers and sub-headers, but you keep writing in long, one-piece chunks, you look out-of-touch with current style. This not only makes it hard for readers to engage with your writing but also for them to take you seriously.
What do you think? Have you been adhering to these online writing standards? Does the content you create reflect an understanding of the Internet realm?
If not, putting these simple steps into practice could make a world of difference—making your writing more understandable, relevant and credible!