Thinking Out Loud: Writing for the Web
The human brain is a powerful thing. It can make you feel happy one minute, but the next it can make your heart heavy with sadness. We are always thinking, sometimes without even realizing it. Sometimes our thoughts are deep and complex, other times they are lighthearted and carefree. Writing for the web requires that we think aloud – in an effort to engage readers who may be skimming over content rather than reading every word carefully. To write for the web, we must have a clear understanding of what our readers are thinking and feeling as they read.
Text is not like a newspaper article that commands your attention with its headline and first sentence. You can’t make assumptions about how much time your reader will spend on their screen reading your article or blog post before moving on to another task. In fact, the average reader only reads 28% of what’s on a page (1). A big part of writing for the web is keeping this information in mind – knowing that readers may be scanning for key points rather than fully absorbing everything you want them to know.
This means that you have to make them feel something, whether they are scanning or reading every word.
But what are you trying to make your readers feel? How can you evoke an emotion in a reader so that it encourages them to stay on your page longer? We all know having compelling and unique content is important for engaging readers, but how do we ensure our writing is truly compelling without sounding silly or fake or overly dramatic? Let’s explore some ideas of how to write thoughtfully for the web:
1. Write Conversationally
Yes, even if your blog post ends up being full of eloquent prose and sophisticated language – as long as it’s authentic and from the heart – consider writing with a conversational tone first. Just like talking to a friend, you don’t need to take yourself too seriously when you’re discussing your ideas. The goal is to make your reader feel like they’re having a conversation with someone who’s just as interested in what they have to say as what they have to share.
Don’t be afraid of contractions or abbreviated words – show that you’re approachable and not pretentious by using casual language or slang. For example, replace “are” with “r” or write out “do not” as “don’t.” Use the same tone throughout your content so that it feels cohesive and intentional rather than careless and rushed.
2. Share Personal Details
Aside from conversational writing being effective it helps us connect to our readers, sharing personal details is another way to forge that connection. Think back on the last time you read an article or watched a video where you felt like the creator was talking directly to you. What made it feel so special? Chances are, it wasn’t just because of how they started off- it was also because they shared something from their own life too!
So whether you’re writing about your struggles as a freelancer trying to make ends meet or describing the joys of discovering a local coffee shop downtown – let readers into your life and share something with them that no one else knows. Be vulnerable if you need to be and remember that most people will never publicly admit they cried after watching The Fault In Our Stars for the third time, but they will understand and empathize with you.
Here are some other tips for writing thoughtfully:
3. Use a Rhythm or Pattern to Your Words
One of the easiest ways to create voice in content is by adding a rhythm or pattern of words throughout your piece. You can do this on one page by repeating the same phrase (“the sky was blue” “there was an apple tree in their backyard”) or carrying it out over several pages (it rained; she loved being outside; her dog always ran ahead; he liked watching from afar). This technique lends itself well to writers who prefer poetry or memoirs, where every word counts and each line adds another layer to the story. Not only does this establish a tone, but it makes the reader feel like they are in the story with you.
4. Use Sentences of Varied Lengths
Adding variety to your sentences can give your content a more polished and professional feel rather than choppy and wordy paragraphs that make readers lose their track of what you’re trying to say. For example, try using sentences of varying lengths (short- medium- long) and mix them up throughout so there is a flow to your writing while still creating interest for the reader. Keeping things simple can be just as effective as adding a bunch of unnecessary words or phrases that may distract from your main point. As long as you are communicating effectively, don’t worry about being overambitious or reaching for the stars. Just like a conversation, simplicity can be just as powerful.
5. Keep it Short and Sweet
While writing in a conversational tone is important to create that connection between writer and reader, we also don’t want to overdo it either – they call this “tooting your own horn.” If you think about it, there’s no point in writing something long- if most of it is going to end up getting cut out anyway! With so much content on the web today, shorter articles are often preferred by readers who have less time and patience than ever before. By keeping things short and sweet (under 1,000 words), you’ll not only hook readers from the get go but also save yourself some time and effort in the editing process later on.
6. Read it Out Loud to Yourself
Trying to read your own writing out loud can be a really great way to take a step back and find mistakes you might have missed otherwise. By reading your articles out loud while following along with the written words, you’ll be able to hear if something comes across as confusing or awkward. If that’s the case, re-word things until they sound just right! Taking these steps ensures that what is supposed to come across comes across correctly – including how you want your readers to feel when they are reading your work (or at least how you hope they will feel).