The challenge in Web authoring is that the audience is often difficult to identify. But if you are interested in Web authoring, here are two facts you should know about Web readers in general:
They don’t read .
They don’t even scroll (unless you’re very lucky or they are very dedicated).
They skim or scan.
(Like you have just now!)
Why? Well, think of it. The Web is a maze of massive amounts of information, thousands upon thousands of web sites and articles competing for a surfer’s attention – and most of it useless to her. She has to make a quick decision to read on or move on. Knowing how much information is out there makes a reader move on more often than not.
They can be just about anybody. The very nature of the Internet means there are no boundaries, no limits. A news article on bio-ethics can be a single mouse click away from the recipe for apple pie. Potentially, your audience is everybody .
But, you are a budding writer and it is your job to hook a reader. You always knew that! As a Web writer, your task is just a little bit more challenging than that of print media writers. Are you going to let a little detail like that get in the way of your ambition? Of course not!
So let’s move on.
WRITING FOR AN ELUSIVE & UNPREDICTABLE AUDIENCE
The 3 Rules
Write in the ‘Inverted Pyramid’ style : Put your conclusion in the opening line. Say the most important thing you want to say immediately. Follow it up with supporting information. End with examples, background, or whatever fits the nature of your copy.
Remember that a web page is not a book, you do not have the time to build up to a punch line. Generally, a web site’s home page will give your article’s title and first 12 or fewer words as a link to the article itself. You have just those to draw in a reader, make her click on the link.
Write in an active, personal tone : Address your reader directly and use action verbs, and you’ll attract her attention fast. Most successful web content tends to be conversational in tone. A little humor goes a long way too.
Write with accuracy, brevity and honesty : Tall claims on one hand, or insufficient information on the other – both will reduce your credibility. “You can get 25% off antique furniture here ” will generally snag greater interest than “World’s best discounts on antiques to be found here “. The first example has accurate information, complete information, and doesn’t sound like a boast (incidentally, it is also in an active, personalized ‘voice’).
In addition, if you use bulleted lists , succinct and meaningful headings , highlight key words and phrases , proofread your submission and swear to never ever plagiarize , you’ll be a Web hero in no time at all.