Turn Good Web Pages Into Great Ones

You may have inherited a vast pool of web content written before your time, or you frequently receive lengthy “expert” articles and other contributed pieces to add to the web site you now manage. Not every expert who contributes to a web site is also an expert in writing for the web. Fortunately, in most cases it’s easier to clean up existing writing than to create the original piece.

Here are a few key ways to edit that web copy and turn the material that you have into great web copy:

Cut the fluff

Writing short, concise copy is often harder than writing lengthy text. Web writing is often too verbose. Interestingly enough, web readers may understand more if there is less to read.

Per Jakob Nielsen, website visitors may read only 20% of the text on the average web page of 593 words. The easier it is for folks to scan and find the key message, the better your web page will communicate.

  • Verbose sentence: According to our research, in order to maintain your dog’s health there are a number of essential steps you will need to follow:
  • Rewrite: Follow these essential steps to maintain your dog’s health:

Replace “click here” with descriptive text

A common crutch, especially from the early days of web writing, is the expression “click here”. As you’re editing, replace instances of “click here” with a description of what you will get when you click on the link.

  • Original sentence: To get a chart of heart-healthy activities, click here.
  • Rewrite: Review our chart of heart-healthy activities.

This provides a clearer message for readers AND it improves search engine optimization of your web site. Descriptive hyperlink text helps ensure search engines understand the site content.

Introduce parallel construction to bullets and subheads

It’s well documented that website users scan rather than read pages. Introducing bulleted lists helps people grasp meaning as they scan. However, if bullets are formatted inconsistently, it slows the reader down and makes it harder to grasp the meaning.

“Parallel construction” means organizing a series of thoughts (or bullets) using a similar grammatical structure or format. Enhance the readability of bulleted lists by ensuring all bullets start with the same part of speech (noun, verb, etc).

Non-parallel construction:

Where to look for a good family pet:

  • Check out animal shelters.
  • Pet shops are not always good sources because.
  • Beware of folks outside a grocery store with a box of puppies and a “free to good home” sign.

Rewrite:

Where to look for a good family pet:

  • Animal Shelters. Well run animal shelters offer an excellent selection.
  • Pet Stores. Commercial pet stores are convenient and yet.
  • “Free to a Good Home” Ads. While a free or inexpensive dog or cat may seem like a good deal.

In the second example, the bullets each start with an inline subhead that’s also a noun. This makes it easier for readers to scan the list (never mind being grammatically preferable!). Check out more information on parallel construction (and other easy, useful grammar tips)

These are just a few of the ways that judicious editing can turn acceptable content into great web copy and help the website communicate even better. Care to share your experience with web copy you “inherited”? Leave a comment below!

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  • http://www.mariabrophy.com Maria Brophy

    Excellent tips! Basics that I needed to be reminded of for my own website. Thank you!

  • http://philwebservices.i.ph/blogs/philwebservices/2010/06/03/philwebservices-guide-to-choosing-high-volume-philippine-web-hosting-provider/ Philwebservices

    Great article! It’s straight to the point and well-organized. Hope you’ll post more articles like this. Thanks for your insights and for posting. Kudos!

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