I’m in the middle of a major project at work that makes me think a lot about writing online. It’s very different from what we all learned in school. It’s not “how many words do I have to write?”. It’s all about “how few words will it take to do the job?”.
Time, as Khan told Admiral Kirk, is a luxury you don’t have (good god, that was geeky). Sure, they weren’t chatting about online writing – but it still applies. Each word should pull its weight or get whacked. Here are some tips for keeping your content tight:
1. Try to put a 20-word cap on each sentence. This makes each sentence easy to read. If commas riddle your sentences, you’re making it hard on your reader. Don’t do that. Show them some love.
2. Keep your paragraphs short. This results in lots of white space around your words. It also groups your ideas into bite-sized chunks.
3. When you can, break your text up into sections with sub-headlines. Not every reader wants to read your every word. They want what interests them most. Bolded subheds make your content easy to scan.
4. Ignore 1-3 when the situation warrants it. You can’t tell every story the same way. It’s like music theory – for most great musicians (or even half-assed mediocre ones with delusions of grandeur like me!), it’s essential to know the scales and cycles of fifths. And it’s even better to stick a note or chord where it doesn’t belong … but do so sparingly.
Let me throw something else out there: Travel bloggers often latch on to a diary style. They like to use past tense – “First we went here. Then we went there. Etc., etc.” Break the mold a bit … use the present tense. Combine it with the short sentence technique, and readers will feel like they’re at your side as you travel.
So there – a few simple concepts. Try them out. Let me know what you think. And share your own ideas with me.