I love telling people who are very serious about their writing that most of what they write is never going to be read online! Well to be precise, 25% of what they write will not be read at all – that’s if someone is really concentrating HARD.  If you get someone on a tired day, in a hurry, or on a sunny day in Ireland in summer 2013, the chances are they’ll read significantly less.

So what can you do to make sure you are read online?

Follow these instructions on how to write to be read and you’ll find your online readers will start taking in slightly more than they had been before:

  1. Write less.  Yes.  You can remove extra words.  You know those little warm up sentences you put in?  Delete.  You know the ones you put in because they sound good, but aren’t directly about what the article is about (like the bit above), delete.  And the ones you put in because they make you sound knowledgable – delete! Tied in with this is dates: you don’t have to write as you say things, so ‘the 2nd of October’ should be ‘2 October’ – same meaning, but shorter.  Works as well don’t you think?
  2. Short sentences.  Here are two good ways to spot sentences that are too long in your repertoire – 1. if you read it out loud, do you have to stop and take a breath?  That’s too long. 2. If you have more than 1 comma in your sentence, it must be banished forever.  Just chop your long sentence into two nice short ones and you’ll do right.
  3. No to multi-syllabic words.  Consequently.  Heretofore (here’s looking at you my legal friends!).
  4. Active verbs.  Here is a list of them.  But mind – many of these are multi-syllabic so don’t go mad on them. I like to use words like “find out”, “discover”, “learn”, “see”, “download”.
  5. Write in the simple present tense.  If you are lucky enough to have learned another language, you’ll understand this!  But it’s surprising the amount of people who write in the continuous present – ie. When you are going… (which translates to “Go”).
  6. Say no to the passive voice.  Even Microsoft Word spellchecker includes this when you run it, if you’ve ever wondered what it is, it’s when you write in the ‘one must’ tone of voice.  Doesn’t work online.  TIP: you can spot it by looking for ‘ions’  -” The unification of Germany led to a reappraisal of national borders”  becomes “when Germany was unified, there was a reappraisal of national borders.”

Apply these pointers and you’ll find your readers will read more of what you write.

How can you measure this?  Take a few of your key pages. Look at the average duration spent on each one.  Then apply these web writing tips. Measure again.  Happy now?

If you would like to find out more about online copywriting, contact us to arrange for your online copywriting training – customised for you.  We have been delivering online copywriting training in Ireland since 2001.  There’s really not a lot about it we don’t know.

And don’t just take our word for it.

We recently gave this training to a client who is “classically trained” let’s say… ie. they have a very robust third level education = large numbers of words, and long sentences.

Despite my fears for the future of civilisation, I can assure you your words were well heeded. The rest of the team gave extremely positive feedback also. It’s a pleasure to receive training that’s so pertinent, useful and accessible.

Happy writing folks!  And keep skimming….

Photo credit: Nick Piggot