How to be both web-wise and spontaneous
Trying to apply a whole lot of writing style rules when you first sit down to write web content can tie you up in knots. A good approach can be to write your first draft as you normally would write without worrying too much about rules. Then review what you have written and start applying web-writing style rules. This way your spontaneity and self-expression are not stifled in the process.
Web writing : An art and a science
You might say that web-wise wording is both a science and an art. The science tells you all the structural rules to impose – like putting the conclusion first and jettisoning all unnecessary words. The art is to be creative, spontaneous and expressive.
But how does the science affect the art – how does knowing the rules affect your spontaneity? It doesn’t always help. It can hinder you at the stage of writing your first draft of web content. Trying to follow lots of rules can tie you up in knots. While you write, you start thinking “I shouldn’t do it this way”, “I shouldn’t say it that way”, “I am supposed to apply such and such a rule”. And soon you start feeling too inhibited to write spontaneously. The flow dries up.
These elements – spontaneity, creativity and expressiveness – are needed to make your material fresh and enjoyable to read.
Protect your creativity
A good approach can be to write your first draft as you normally would write. Let it flow, and don’t stop to make corrections – just keep writing your ideas as they come to you. Then go back over it and start revising it to be more correct and more web-wise:-
- Simplify the language
- Aim to halve the word count
- Make sure you have written the web content for your reader’s benefit, not to impress them with how clever you are!
- Write a conclusion and put it at the top of the web page
- Start each paragraph with the conclusion
- Include only one central idea in each paragraph
- Use meaningful headings, bold text, lists and bullet points
- Run it through a spell-check
- Read it again
- Get someone else to check and review it for you
Other tips for overcoming web-writer’s block
Try pen & paper
If you feel blocked & the words won’t flow, try moving away from the computer into a room with a different atmosphere, and taking up pen and paper. Try doing this first thing in the morning when your mind is fresh.
Start with the conclusion
Try starting your article as follows. First, summarise the objective of your article, and spend some time creating a series of meaningful headings to represent the flow of your message. From there, it becomes simply a matter of filling in the blanks.
To proof-read your article, try printing it out and editing by hand.
For more guidelines, read our 10 Tips for writing good content