Chambers desktop guides
User level – Novice
Usability guru Jakob Nielsen recommends this title as the best summary on writing for the web: ‘Ross manages to cover all the most important issues in less space than anybody else, mainly because she focuses on writing’.
Available second -hand from Amazon, this would be my recommendation for someone new to writing for the web. It sets the scene by describing the difference between web users and readers of print. Web users are active and impatient and will jump around a site rather than reading pages sequentially. As we all know by now, they scan rather than read!
We then move on to focus on what a website is for and who will read it. This results in the need for some basic planning before deciding on the site’s organisation, content and style. ‘Your starting point is your user and his or her questions or needs.’ One useful suggestion is to organise information by both topic and group.
Other tips include:
- Ensure every page or section make sense on its own, wherever the user links from
- Divide information into discrete chunks
- how your main navigation, or at least a link to the homepage, on every page so the user doesn’t feel lost
- Make sure the words you write as content for the user include the keywords that will help search engines find your site
- Use a conversational tone and the language of your user
- Remember you may be writing for more than one audience
- Cut out unnecessary words (a chapter tells you how to do this)
- Avoid ‘insider’ language (jargon), slang, clichés and pompous words
- Phrase things positively (‘leaves out’ rather than ‘does not include’)
- Avoid the passive tense
Part Two, the section on ‘Thinking about writing’, includes chapters on using as few words as possible, choosing the right words, the function of words, constructing sentences, spelling and punctuation. It also includes a chapter on SEO and on stories, summaries, headlines and lists.
This is a succinct introduction to writing for the web.