I expect you know from your own experience that reading online is different from reading print. It therefore follows that writing online needs to be different to the way you were taught to write for print.
To get technical for a moment, research has come up with the concept of the bi-literate brain. This describes the differences between reading print, known as deep reading processes, and online, described as non-linear reading.
So how do digital readers differ from print readers?
• Online people read up to 25% more slowly.
• They tend to scan text looking for key words, hence writers need to use SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques and include these key words.
• Online readers tend to have a specific objective and to want to complete that objective quickly. They want relevant information, so put it at the top of the page.
• If your page doesn’t provide what a reader wants easily and quickly, they will search for one that does!
• Online reading is not linear. Readers will be jumping about from site to site, topic to topic, so bear in mind that interactivity is the key.
What is the best way to go about writing online copy?
• Write for your audience. Try and think like a reader and concentrate on what they want to get out of your writing.
• As a general rule be succinct, writing clearly, in short sentences and to the point.
• Make it easy for the reader. Put your important information at the top of the page so they don’t have to search for it.
• Keep your language simple. Remember that anyone who has access to the internet could potentially be reading what you have written, so make it straightforward, unless you are writing for a specifically technical or niche site.
• Be relevant. Give the reader the information they want to access.