The Internet is awash with information, and people are in a hurry.  Research has consistently shown that people don't read on the web; they scan.  What can we learn from this?  There are styles we can employ when writing for the web, whether it’s an article, a blog post, or just copy in a web application.

Tips for writing on the web:

  • Be concise. Take what you've written, and cut it in half.  Then cut it in half again.  Isolate the core of what you want to say, and state it in a few sentences.
  • Use bullet points. They lend themselves to scanning, and help your readers retain what you want them to know.
  • Use boldface. When writing paragraphs, use a boldface font to highlight important concepts.  Look at the first paragraph of this post for an example.
  • Simple headings. If it takes more than a few seconds to understand, readers will gloss right over your headings.  Go for simple, not clever.
  • Layout is key. Jakob Nielsen discovered that people tend to scan in an F shape across a web page.  Important elements should go in the top left, and less important details further down.