Words for the Wise: Writing for the Web

August 1999
by Reid Goldsborough

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In cyberspace, “you are what you write,” says Charles Rubin, author of 30 books about technology including Guerrilla Marketing Online. Whether you’ve created a Web site to promote your organization or to share your enthusiasm for the music of Miles Davis, you should pay close attention to the words you use.

“People’s opinion of you online is determined to a large extent by your command of the written word,” Rubin says.

But don’t think you can simply apply the lessons you learned in English class. “Writing for the Web is different,” says Ed Trayes, a professor of communications at Temple University who spearheaded the school’s electronic information-gathering coursework. “People go to the Web because they want to get information efficiently.”

To meet this need, think in terms of individual screens. “Ninety percent of people reading a Web page don’t scroll down,” says Jack Powers, director of the International Informatics Institute, a think tank in New York City on interactive media. “You need to grab the reader’s attention and make your main points in the first screen.”

People on the Web have short attention spans. If you don’t hook them quickly, they’ll be off to any of the millions of other sites just a few clicks away. “Because people typically don’t make an investment to view a Web site, unlike with magazines or newspapers, they have less incentive to keep reading,” says Jakob Nielsen, principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, an information technology consu…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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