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20 tips on how to write for the Web

How To, Web Design | Aug 6, 2009

There are really only a few tricks to writing properly for the web. If you know how to write, you are already 95% of the way there.

These are some of the more common mistakes that I’ve seen in web copy and some tricks that I use every day to write effectively, from e-mails to site pages. You don’t need to be an English major to understand any of this advice either. It is written in plain English that everyone can understand.

These are tips based on my own experience and education as a writer, and particularly as a writer specializing in the web. If you’ve got some tips of your own feel free to share them in the comments section.

1. It’s versus its

This is a very common mistake that a lot of people make. It’s is short for “it is”, so “it’s all relative” is correct while “it’s color is blue” is not. “Its” is a term of possession, so “its color is blue” is correct.

2. Overuse of punctuation

Excess punctuation should be left out of most sentences on the web. If a reader sees a sentence with more than one comma, the sentence becomes harder to scan and therefore more likely to turn a reader off. More advanced punctuation such as semi-colons and colons should be avoided completely by starting new sentences instead.

Example: “It is really important to keep three principles in mind, when thinking of the best shoes to buy; comfort, style, and eco-impact.” Should be: “Comfort, syle, and eco-impact should be kept in mind when thinking of the best shoes to buy.” Short, sweet and no semi-colon.

3. One space after a period

This is something I struggle with daily. It was drilled into my head, especially during University, that two spaces after a period were needed. The convention for web writing is now one space after a period. This is something that the owner of this blog gently pointed out to me, and I researched it extensively before implementing it. He was completely right.

4. Don’t begin sentences with “But”, “And”, or “Yet”

This is more common than you would think, and I have seen it from very established writers. If you are challenging a concept from the previous paragraph or sentence, use “However” to start the sentence. If you are trying to follow up on an idea from a previous sentence, don’t begin a new paragraph and just present the idea in the next sentence. Your audience will leap with you without an introductory “and” or “but”.

5. Overuse of “also”

I go through all of my articles for what I call the “A Word” before releasing them into the wild. “Also” has its time and place, but frequent use looks like a grammatical hiccup and is highly noticeable after a while to your reader.

6. Keep sentences short

While this was covered in the section on punctuation, it is important enough that it needs its own heading. A sentence should never be longer than a line. If you need to list something, do it with bullet points or an attractive graphic rather than producing a long sentence.

7. The serial comma

The serial comma is used before a grammatical conjunction, such as “and” for the last item in a list of commas. Its use has been a topic of hot debate by writers and people in the publishing industry for a long time.

Since web writing aims to keep itself as simple as possible, the usual preference is to do without the serial comma. Some clients will insist on its use, especially if they are in occupations where a more formal use of language is the norm, such as law.

Example: “She likes the films of Ridley Scott, Martin Scorcese, and Clint Eastwood.” Technically its use is never really incorrect, but it does serve as excessive punctuation that can trip up the reader.

You want your audience to read the sentence, not to pause on the comma and ponder whether or not it is being used correctly.

8. Capitalize words in headlines

Excepting prepositions (of, to, for, is) and the words “and” and “the”, all major words in a headline should be capitalized. I see a lot of copy where only the first letter of the headline is capitalized.

9. Their, there, and they’re

Their: Is a term used to illustrate possession, such as “their mitts were soaking wet”. There: Indicates the whereabouts of something, such as “the statue is located there”. They’re: This is a contraction of “they are”. “They’re going to the beach today.”

10. Use lots of headlines

Ideally, any site page or blog posting should read much like this article, with a headline and then a paragraph or two.

Headlines act as important signposts for the reader to decide whether or not they want to read those paragraphs, so the headline should always describe the subject matter of the paragraphs which follow it. This will look weird to those used to more conventional forms of writing, but the more you break it up, the more readable it is.

11. Use spell check and your eyes

Spell check isn’t always enough. If you spell “breakfast” as “break fast”, the typical spell check will not pick up on your mistake.

This is especially important for site copy. You can’t expect people to trust your brand or product if you have spelling mistakes on your page. While a spelling mistake may be forgiven by your readers in a hastily written article or blog posting, it won’t be if it is present on a page that is trying to sell something.

12. Weasel words

These are vague generalizations that are made for the convenience of the writer, not the audience.

If a writer is rushed for time, they may write something like “most people feel that juice is 100% tasty”. The proper procedure is to find out the statistics and facts and work those into the sentence. The correct form would be “60% of people feel that juice is 100% tasty, while only 5% feel that it is only 10% tasty”. Web readers are reading your site to get information, not opinions.

13. Then and than

These words are very commonly misused. Then is indicative of a place in time, such as “there was no internet back then”. Than is a quantitative term, which can follow the use of “more”, such as “there is no more annoying thing than a writer telling people how to write.”

14. Apostrophe use

When you are considering whether or not to use an apostrophe, look at your demographic.

Is it a blog like this one that would benefit from a more casual style? Is it a website for a financial adviser? The web is usually home to a more conversational style, but where you feel the context is more professional, don’t use the apostrophe.

Examples: Personal Blog for a financial adviser: “You’re going to find the new SEC regulations difficult to navigate without a little help.” Website copy for a financial adviser: “You are going to find the new SEC regulations difficult to navigate without a little help.”

15. Obscure references

Think of these as in-jokes with yourself or your industry that your clients just don’t get.”This new album is more explosive than the Tunguska Event!” would be a good example of an obscure reference.

Again, this is context-specific. Referring to an episode of Star Trek by name will go over just fine on a Trekkie blog, but not in a mainstream news piece on science fiction.

16. Acronym use

It is a good idea to limit acronym use even if you think your audience will know the acronym.

The 10% who don’t know it will be annoyed and may click off of your site. If an acronym will be repeated throughout a site page or an article, it is only necessary to define it the first time it is used. Once again, this is context-specific.

You don’t need to spell out AJAX for the readers of this blog, while you would have to for a mainstream media article. Wrong Acronym Use: “CPIC, CSIS, and the PAO are running a joint venture to better educate the public about how hard drugs finance international terrorism.”

Right Acronym Use: “The Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and the Police Association of Ontario (PAO) are running a joint venture to better educate the public about how hard drugs finance international terrorism.”

17. Keep person on track

If you are referring to yourself as “I” at the start of your piece, don’t shift to “we” in the middle. Keep grammatical person use consistent.

18. Use hyperlinks

If you are writing for the web, you want readers to be able to interact with your page.

You saw this above with the “Tunguska Event”. It was linked to a definition rather than leaving it up to you to look it up if you were interested. If you are writing site copy for a business offering a product or service, use links to other areas of the site here and there to make it even easier for customers to find what they are looking for. Keep both inbound and outbound links relevant and don’t use too many

19. Overuse of literary devices

This is just good advice for any writing, online or offline.

Overuse of metaphors, similes, or any other literary device will distract from the point of your composition and make you look pretentious. Literary devices are meant to help you get a point across in a certain way, so use them if you have to sparingly and move on.

20. Words to avoid: Just and regardless

“Just” can end up insulting your reader by implying that an action is easier than it actually is.

Look at the difference between these two sentences: “She says that I should just learn the French language.” “She says that I should learn the French language.

The first example makes it seem like the person is being talked down to, while the second sentence reads as more of a suggestion.Regardless should be avoided as it is a nonsense word that really doesn’t mean anything at all, right along with its sister word, irregardless. When included at the beginning of a sentence, the words are not necessary, as you can see in these examples:

Regardless, the show must go on.
Irregardless, the show must go on.
The show must go on.

 

Written exclusively for WDD by Angela West.

Feature image by Shutterstock

Do you have a pet peeve word or phrase that you would like to see eliminated from the web or tips of your own? Share them in our comments section!

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  • http://www.monaevedesignfarm.com Erika Martinez

    Thanks for the roundup. My favorite sentence was the very last: “Wherever you can trim back on a word, do it.” So true! People are always filling their sentences with extra words that needn’t be there. Great tips!

  • http://www.flashjourney.com j000

    Thanks a lot, this was really helpful from now on I will be careful to how I write on line.

  • jacob

    Good post over all. You used 2 commas for your example for tip #2, not one.

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      Thanks Jacob – that was a mistake on my part and I thank you for pointing it out!

  • http://www.raptivity.com/webexpert Poonam

    Very useful article. It has suggested a lot of tips for useful writing. I would definitely follow these in all my writings from today.

    Thanks,
    Poonam

  • http://oreanarose.com Oreana

    Regardless is a nonsense word? I thought it was an actual word. Did you mean irregardless? That’s the annoying one.

    • Kenneth

      Agreed. ‘Irregardless’ is a stupid word.

    • Abydos641

      It is an actual word, though it tends to be overused. “Irregardless” is the incredibly annoying one.

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      I have included “irregardless” in the statement as suggested. I consider them both to be extraneous in most cases.

  • paul4tA

    “Should be: ‘Comfort, syle, and eco-impact should be kept in mind when thinking of the best shoes to buy.’ Short, sweet and only one comma.”

    Not only does it have two commas, as Jacob pointed out, but “style” has a typo. I think this invites an expansion on Tip #11. Not only should you use spell check and your eyes, but getting someone else (or a few people) to proofread your final copy is never a bad idea.

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      I have fixed this – thank you again for pointing this out.

      • http://elbelbelb2000.blogtog.com Eugene

        Angela, you do realize that you make a mistake when you say “I have fixed this,” right? The word “this” in your sentence contains an unreferenced pronoun because the reader has no idea what the word “this” is referencing. The correct way to answer is “I have fixed this error” or “I have fixed this mistake.”

        In fact, this entire article is laden with the unreferenced pronoun mistake. We see this error appear in points #1, #3, #4, #10 (“This will look weird to those…” What will look weird??), #11, #15 (“Again, this is context-specific.” What is context-specific, exactly?), #18 (“You saw this above…” Saw what above?), and #19.

      • Michael Gabriel

        Angela, thank you for a very informative post! As a professional copy writer, I don’t agree on everything but I think you’ve brought up some excellent points for novice writers.

        Your Tip #2 still reads “syle” instead of “style” in your second-to-last sentence. I thought you’d like your post to be perfect. It’s so important to avoid typos in an article that stresses correct spelling!

        Your Tip #20 is missing a space after the first sentence.

        One additional suggestion is to avoid needless “this” and “that” when possible. In your opening paragraph, you wrote ” It is written in plain English that everyone can understand.” I would remove the word “that” for the sake of brevity. In much the same way, I eschew the use of expressions like “in order to,” as in “I remove the bed covers in order to crawl under the sheets.” It’s an archaic and needless hold-over that I often encounter in proofreading copy.

        One other thing that I see far too frequently is the overuse of question marks and exclamation points (e.g. “What????” and “Wait!!!!!!!!!!!”). What’s up with that? *smile*

        Kudos on a fabulous article, and thank you for sharing your knowledge (and for reading my reply)! I wish you all the best of success and continued prosperity!

  • http://www.descience.synthasite.com/ balaSmurali

    Angela West Thanks a lot!!!!!!!! for writing , very helpful!

  • http://www.kadom.net Thomas

    Thanks, This post is very useful for people like me whom English is not the native language.

  • http://www.dileepsharma.com Dileep k Sharma

    Although a nice article but it talks more about grammar. From the title I expected more out of it.

  • http://technology.johnsamuel.in John Samuel

    Very Informative article. It really helped me to understand what all things I need to improve my blogging style. Thanks

  • http://www.jadgraphics.net Jad Graphics

    Definitely a helpful article. I completely agree with everything you said. Great job Angela!

  • http://www.stephenkui.com Stephen Kui

    Quite the useful list here.
    Just something I thought I might add (for whatever it’s worth), is blocks of text.

    I think we’ve all seen some of those unparagraphed walls of black text, or worse… white text on a black background.

    Love the site, though. I’ll definitely be visiting around here more!

    Stephen

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      I completely agree. Very important tip, especially when you are dealing with someone who is taking text from a brochure and using it as their online copy.

  • http://diggerdesignlabs.com Steve Robillard

    I am no English major by any stretch of the imagination, but is number 17 really changing tense or person (1st vs, 3rd)? Wouldn’t changing tense be I am doing vs. I did?

  • bstoppel

    On number 17, do you mean person (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_person) and not tense?

  • http://blog.rimann.org/ Mario Rimann

    Thanks for sharing these great tips!

  • http://www.inverter-china.com acdrive

    Useful article. I think it’s helpful to me

  • http://www.markrushworth.com mark rushworth

    Heres a couple more

    MS Word formatting… dont use it! it causes lots of problems for people who dont use your default character set

    writing in sentences as opposed to paragraphs. Yes you have to keep information as short as possible however resist the temptation to start a new paragraph after every sentence, it makes the page look choppy

    Do some keyword research using free google tools. this will help you identify the language of the common surfer and ensure your calling a spade a spade when you write about your topic.

  • http://www.embed-design.com/ Oliver

    Awesome, lots of tips. Thanks a heap

  • http://www.ree-she.com Rishi Luchun

    Thanks for this, very useful tips for my blog!

  • http://unfinisheddiscoloured.blogspot.com NoozeHound

    Without meaning to sound ‘gushing’ this is the clearest, most useful, easiest on the eye and succinct piece of read on writing n general and web writing specifically. Thanks!

  • http://jpedroribeiro.com J. Pedro Ribeiro

    Great post, I can relate to a few of the topics pointed out here.
    It’s really good to see design blogs writing about this subject.

  • http://www.inverter-china.com acdrive

    If you are challenging a concept from the previous paragraph or sentence, use “However” to start the sentence.

    This makes me confused. Why should we use “however” not “but”?

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      This is the best answer coming from a source other myself I could come up with. I just think “But” as a starter looks wrong, this piece does a better job of explaining why. There are some limited instances where it works, but people who do it tend to overuse the method.

      http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/Section/Is-it-ever-okay-to-start-a-sentence-with-the-word-but-.id-305408,articleId-113643.html

    • http://www.teahon.co.uk/wordpress Richard Teahon

      It’s because ‘but’ is a joining word. The same goes for ‘and’, as both of these join a sentance together.

      Also the word “however”, shifts the emphasis of the writing to a new perspective.

  • http://tompy.com JT

    “I” and “we” have nothing to do with tense.

    And “Regardless” is not a nonsense word and neither is “just”. However, they do need to be used correctly to convey the correct meaning of the sentence and not just thrown in regardless.

  • Jonn

    Great post but I don’t agree with ‘regardless’ being a nonsense word.

    ‘Regardless of the age gap between them, my parents spent 65 happy year together’

    I guess you could use the word ‘despite’ instead, but this suggests that the age gap is in some way detrimental. I personally don’t see any problem with the word regardless – if used in the correct capacity.

  • http://www.innovatics.de Robert Kock

    Thank you for the article, I like it. Greetings from Germany.

  • Uhro

    Grat article! However, I’d use this sentence at tip # 2.

    “You should keep comfort, style and eco-impact in mind when thinking of the best shoes to buy.”

    This one really has just one comma and it’s an active sentence, not a passive one.

  • http://blog.karolzielinski.com Karol Zielinski

    Nice collection. However it’s only the ‘tips on how to write for the web’, but in general: ‘how to write anything’.

  • Anne Dougherty

    A good list which will be helpful in retraining people taught to write for print. One thing though: r.e. “3. One Space After a Period”

    It doesn’t really matter: HTML only displays one space in a line of many, hence the overused but always wrong line of nbsp characters used by novice coders for spacing.

    And r.e.: “11. Use Spell Check and Your Eyes”

    My favorite non-spelling typo: doe snot (though with the use of contractions and the more conversational style this becomes less common).

  • http://www.snappysentences.com Sally, Snappy Sentences

    Some nice points, though don’t agree with #8. Sentence case is far easier to keep consistent than title case… but technically either way is correct.

    I started a whole discussion on the topic at http://www.snappysentences.com/writing-for-the-web/sentence-case-v-title-case/

    Cheers

  • http://sean-nieuwouudt.com Sean Nieuwoudt

    Thanks for this, very useful indeed!

    Regards,
    Sean

  • http://antikewl.com Trevor May

    Some good points that everyone should adhere to, but few do! One error I noticed: “17. Keep Tenses On Track” — while a very good point, your example is wrong. A tense is *when*, not *who*.

    Ergo: “If you are referring to yourself in the past tense at the start of your piece, don’t shift to the present or future tense in the middle. Keep tense use consistent.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_tense

  • http://www.blog.exxcorpio.com Luis Lopez

    This tips are really useful cause I am not the best writter and I’m not even english native so is more difficult write good content. But with this 20 tips I’ll get better.

  • http://www.alexwisephotography.com/ Alex

    Some great tips you have their! (joke..)

  • Pedro

    “Web readers are reading your site to get information, not opinions.” is a gross generalization. Usually the exact opposite holds true for blogs.

    And there isn’t such a thing as “web readers”.

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      I did mean that specifically for website copy where you are selling a commercial product; you are writing for an audience that want fact-based statements, not opinion-based statements there.

      Of course on a blog you are looking for opinions. Thank you for yours!

  • http://www.lbm.co.uk Alexandra

    Thanks for this, it’s a very useful article.

    Just one pedantic point: 17. Keep Tenses on Track doesn’t refer to tense, it refers to grammatical person (first person, second person, third person). Tense refers to time i.e. past, present or future.

    Other than that, I found it very insightful.

  • http://aaronhalford.com Aaron

    Overall you made a strong case for better grammar on the web; although, I strongly disagree with #7. The comma separates items in a list. If you omit the final comma, you are stating that the last and second-to-last items in your list are actually one item, not two.

    However, my point-of-reference assumes we are all using American English as the standard of grammar – not European English. According to European English, I believe you are correct on #7.

    • http://andyjeffries.co.uk Andy Jeffries

      “assumes we are all using American English as the standard of grammar – not European English”

      Not the best assumption to make :-)

      As the originators of English – the Founding Fathers of the language if you like – we’d prefer it if you used it without adding your own quirks ;-)

    • http://www.eyefruit.com/ Scott Buchanan

      The latest Associated Press writing standards have you omit the final comma. It is becoming standard in American English.

      • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

        @Scott Buchanan

        I am with you there. The only reason I qualified it with the fact that some may want you to use it in a more formal environment is that I had a request from a client who works in the law field that I use serial commas, otherwise I probably would have left it alone.

  • http://andyjeffries.co.uk Andy Jeffries

    Section 12: “Web readers are reading your site to get information, not opinions.”

    Isn’t that a “vague generalizations that are made for the convenience of the writer, not the audience” in itself? There are quite a few blogs I read that I specifically go to for the opinion of the author (Obie Fernandez, DHH, Coding Horror, etc)

  • http://geshan.blogspot.com Geshan Manandhar

    good tips, some are simply great.

  • http://www.thetruthaboutgrammar.com Jeff

    “Is” is not a preposition; though I’m sure you meant “in”. Headline capitalization depends on which, if any, style guide the publication uses. For example, the Chicago style is similar to that described in point eight, but AP style generally requires only the first word and proper nouns be capitalized.

  • http://acristech.in vikas ghodke

    Great tips, i am ready to start my own blog and after your tips. I should check my articles again. Thank you very much for great tips

  • http://shadowfoot.com/footprints Brian (Shadowfoot)

    The Two spaces after a period still applies if you’re using a fixed-pitch font (such as most typewriters). One space for variable-width fonts.

  • http://www.the-web-doctor.com/ Lane

    A good post I plan to promote. Speaking of alliteration, is “Keep Tenses on Track”? the right title for that tip? Doesn’t it refer to number, rather than tense?

    I’m glad you put “its-itis” on top. I believe it’s the most common error.

    One space after a period came in with desktop publishing, not the Internet. It’s the result of using proportional fonts, where letters take up different amounts of space.

    A previous tip sheet alerted me to my overuse of “that.” Example: We believe that the use of the process will improve output.

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      Thanks Lane! We are in the process of correcting my admitted mistake on the use of “tense” instead of “person”. I completely agree with you on the overuse of “that”.

      What would really be nice is a filter/program that you could put in place to alert you to extraneous word use – hopefully Google Docs is hard at work on something now. If anyone know of any such animal feel free to chime in!

  • Gene Ramsay

    Engish Grammer was not one of my favorite subjects in school, but I did learn one thing: The proper use of “me, myself and I”.
    The rule is do not use “myself” if there is no “I” in the same sentence.
    I see this error by professionals, politicians, Journalists and anybody else who writes an article and expects a reply.
    A wrong example is: “To learn more information, please contact myself.”. The correct grammer is: “To learn more information, please contact me.”

  • Scott

    Great article. I also must disagree with the “regardless as a nonsense word” point. It’s a key-word that means “without regard.”

    “Therefore” is my particular pet-peve word. It has a very specific meaning: the declaration of a logical conclusion. It always needs to be preceded by a valid logical argument in the previous sentences.

  • http://newlayer.hu david

    Thank you, it was very helpful.

  • http://www.damondnollan.com Damond Nollan

    Thank you for putting this list together. I have dealt with most of these during my short time in the blogging world and it is nice to know that I am doing some things right.

  • zodiac

    It’s not so much that single spaces after a period are the convention, it is more about the fact that you can put as many spaces as you want in the code of HTML and it will only be single spaced. You need the non-breaking-space to double space text.

  • http://www.paulcshirley.com/ Paul C. Shirley

    Great list, and I’m pleased that I’m only guilty of overuse of punctuation and, occasionally, literary devices.
    Regarding “The Serial Comma” – in certain cases, not having it for the last item can lead to ambiguity so I always use it to be consistent.
    For example, take the sentence “He likes shirts that are red, blue, black and white and grey.”.
    Is that “black and white, and grey”, or “black, and white and grey”?

    • Michael Gabriel

      Good point, Paul. I agree!

    • http://www.writingprism.blogspot.com Smriti

      I agree too. :) Nice explanation. Thanks! :)

  • zodiac

    21. To and Too…

  • http://cathiet.blogspot.com CathieT

    Thank you so much.

  • http://www.twitter.com/thomasmburu thomasmburu

    Nice article, have to download it and go read it carefully at home.

  • http://debtkillerdiaries.today.com Miragi

    Excellent pointers!!! Especially Step 3…that’s been difficult because, like you, it was ingrained in my brain that there are TWO spaces. Grr. See, I still do it!

    My pet word peeve involves buzz phrases such as “new guard”. Gag. It’s fine if it’s used once in an article or story, but to repeatedly spew it out just gets nauseating!

    Rock on! Sharing your post on Twitter!

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      I’m so with you on the buzz phrases. I also can’t stomach “moving forward”. The tough part is sorting out buzz phrases from terms that are actually enjoying popular use, especially when you work in a vacuum in a home rather than a corporate office. “Web 2.0″ took a lot of time for me to actually accept.

  • http://www.twolittlefishes.co.uk/ Nick Bramwell

    Some interesting pointers or writing for the Web, many of which don’t often get said. Some of them are also good general writing tips (like “9. Their, There, and They’re”) and not only specific to Web writing.

    I don’t agree with “8. Capitalize Words in Headlines” though. Using capital letters usually makes text harder to read as it breaks up the forms of the letters and so slows down the reader. I can see that for heading it doesn’t matter too much, so I wouldn’t specifically recommend against it. However I also would not recommend it as good Web writing. I’d be interested to know why you would recommend it though, maybe I’m missing something.

    If anyone wants any more pointers on Web writing, then it’s something I often write about on my own blog http://www.twolittlefishes.co.uk/blog/?cat=3.

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      Thanks for your comment! I think I see where the main issue is here. Capitalized words in headings are a US convention and I probably should have qualified that in the posting. Compare techcrunch.com and bbc.co.uk.

  • WebmasterX

    Also important to mention:

    1. STRUCTURE:
    In www a text is a structured construct.

    So headlines are not only for show or readability,
    but have a technical background. This is esp. important
    when it comes to accessibility for handycapped people,
    or viewing on different viewports (Mobile Phones, PDA, even Read-Out-Aloud-Devices, etc. ).

    Please make use of the “Headline” and “Paragraph” features of your fav. application,
    instead of just using “bold” to make some text within a paragraph look like a real headline element.

    (In comments like this one there is no other choice, mostly.)

    2. READABILITY

    While in print publications it is possible to write as many sentences in a paragraph as one likes, this is not advisable in www documents.
    Use paragraphs often, as they break the text into smaller units the eye can follow much easier on a screen than a massive field of words.

    Just my 2cts.

    Keep on writing!
    urs, webmasterX

  • http://www.writerseven.com/ Corey Freeman

    “Regardless” is correct. “IRregardless” is a nonsense word. That being said, I have to disagree with a few of your points:

    “Keep sentences short.”

    Sometimes sentences need to be longer. Do they need to be monumental? Well, perhaps if you’re making a point. While many people who are not native speakers (and a lot of native speakers I know as well…) tend to write run-ons, if you can produce a grammatically correct longer sentence, awesome.

    Your writing should be as long as it takes to convey your point. The same goes for sentences. Sometimes, you need long ones.

    “Don’t start a sentence with ‘yet’ ”

    You can start a sentence with yet. A comma is not required though.

    “Overuse of literary devices.”

    If you can’t use a literary device, overuse is bad. If you actually know how to work them into your content seamlessly, you can fill content with them. Think about the president’s speeches. If you take a close look at a transcript of one, you’ll see a lot of literary devices.

    That being said, a literary device can last for a word or two, or a sentence here and there. It shouldn’t be a long, drawn-out thing unless you’re creating an example. Still, you can use them regularly if you know how.

    “Obscure References”

    If you link to an obscure reference, they can be great for getting people to interact more with your content. You can link to relevant posts on your blog, and make things more entertaining. Cracked.com and Consumerist.com do this all the time.

    Those four aside, the other points in your article are great. Thanks for sharing some awesome writing tips for online writers. :)

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      Thank you for your detailed comment; it is discourse like this that makes blogging for WDD fun!

      I should clarify the “obscure references”. I agree with you that they are used well on Cracked, but where you have commercial site copy you should limit them as much as possible. People expect them on Cracked, but not on buymysoap.com.

      Cheers and thanks!

  • http://kaiernweb.net Kaiern

    Thank for the tips. I should probably get better at reading my blog posts a few more times before I publish them. *slaps self in the face*

  • http://www.smashandpeas.com Lee Milthorpe

    Very helpful article Angela.

    I’m struggling with my writing at the moment so was glad to see this come up in my feed reader!

  • David More

    These are rigid and rather small-minded rules based on taste and habit.

    Some of them are particularly ill-informed, such as Tip 8; “Capitalize Words in Headlines”. Excessive fondness for title case is a stylistic preference in American English that many other traditions do not share. In fact, some readers may find it jarring and stilted. There is no reason (other than personal preference) to insist on it over sentence case.

    Tip 17 would be sad if it wasn’t so funny, and funny if it wasn’t so sad. Look up the meanings of ‘tense’ and ‘number’, Angela. They’re not the same!

    Anyone really interested in good advice on writing for the web should get a copy of Ginny Redish’s ‘Letting Go of the Words’. No other advice matches it, or is necessary.

    • http://www.wordbrain.ca Erin

      Agreeing.

      I think it’s great to have a list of conventions that YOU use, in order to keep your writing consistent. Some of your tips are good, generic ones for web-writing – avoid overuse of punctuation, one space after periods, break up blocks of text with headlines, etc. Others are simply personal preference.

      Pick up Bill Bryson’s book, ‘The Mother Tongue.’ What you’ll learn is that a lot of the rules of English have no real origin. They’re just made up, because-I-said-so rules.

      For example – finishing a sentence with a preposition (not mentioned in your list, but a language rule that most people know). Why don’t we do this? Can anyone answer this question without using some version of: “Because it sounds wrong,” “Because it’s simply not done,” or “Because I said so”? In fact, there is nothing in the annals of English language history to suggest any reason why we should follow this rule. It was simply someone ‘s preference at one time, and it carried on down through the ages. Nobody actually knows for sure why this is a rule that we still adhere to.*

      * :)

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      Thank you for your comment! Tip 17 was a mistake that we are in the process of correcting, and I thank you for pointing it out.

    • bstoppel

      Your comment on Tip 17 about tense and number reminds me of a joke I heard long ago.

      A patient walks into his psychiatrists office.

      The psychiatrist asks, “how are you doing?”

      The patient responds, “terrible. I keep having this dream that I am a tipi then suddenly I’m a wigwam. Tipi. Wigwam. Tipi. Wigwam. Tipi. Wigwam…”

      The doctor yells, “Stop. You’re too tense (two tents.)”

      Ha.

    • http://www.writerseven.com/ Corey Freeman

      I disagree with what you’re saying about capitalizing titles. If you are writing for the web in another language, then yes, go with those conventions.

      However, many writers online today are trying to learn English, and conforming to the title structure makes titles stand out (which I’d assume you would want them to do) and helps to separate content.

      All books, movies, plays, video games, and other such commercial titles follow this format. Why should the web not follow it also? Alternatively, many choose to use all capitals for some titles. However, sentence case, in my own opinion, personally and professionally, should be used for sentences.

      Also, advice is always necessary, no matter whom or where it comes from. If you chose to learn from only one source, you severely limit yourself.

  • http://daveharrison.net Dave

    Another overused expression “As well as” For example : We offer design, development as well as other web services.

  • swapnet

    #5 and #20 I think “also” is also (oops) a useless word.

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh Zehtabchi

    This post made my morning. How about the “their, there and they’re” and the all to notorious ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’!?

    Not to put anybody down but these are fairly common errors that a proof read can pick up on.

  • ed

    Um, you’ve got TWO commas in #2…

  • http://www.capewomenonline.com Jane

    Thanks for the informative piece.

    One of my pet peeves is the common misuse of lose vs loose. It is not clear if the problem is one of spelling or understanding of the difference between the two terms. I see sentences such as “I need to loose ten pounds” or “One more scream and I will loose it!”.

    Often this error is made by otherwise literate contributors. Perhaps these folks should loosen up a bit and lose this scholarly embarrassment.

  • http://omnigeek.robmiracle.com Rob Miracle

    Interesting, I just published a blog post on this last week and I have a completely different take on the subject:

    http://omnigeek.robmiracle.com/2009/07/30/robisims-making-sense-of-grammar-and-spelling-for-the-21st-century-blogger/

    On a more serious note, #8 was the long standing method of headline writing that we were taught through high school and college, but the current style guide in use by the Associated Press has all words lower case except for the first word and proper nouns. The all caps is out of favor with most media writers today.

  • http://www.whereitravel.com Chris

    Excellent post! I’m fairly new to blogging and am always on the look out for any helpful articles.

  • http://www.vagrantradio.com Jason

    One of the best articles I have read in quite some time on all the design blogs I frequent.

    I myself am guilty of many of the things listed from time to time, now I know exactly how to correct my ramblings. lol. Thanks!

  • http://www.alisonag.com Alison

    Tip 21. Correct use of the word “tense”

    Tense refers to to the inflectional form of a verb that expresses a distinction in time. For example, “happening” versus “happened” or “running” versus “ran”. What you are referring to with “I” versus “we” is pronoun consistency.

  • http://www.revare.com/steve Steve

    I would go a step further on your second example, removing the passive voice:

    Keep comfort, syle, and eco-impact in mind when thinking of the best shoes to buy.

    Take a look at “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. An old version of the composition section is available on the web for free: http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk5.html

  • Fred

    Rule #11. Use spell check.

    There’s at least one typo in this article.

  • http://www.shicksdesign.com/onlifeanddesign Sarah Lynn

    Lots of great tips here! Thank you for another informative and humorous post. You make it much more fun to read.

  • Mary Forde

    You make a lot of good points, but not capitalizing words in headlines cannot be considered to be a ‘mistake’. The visual formatting (design and capitalization) of headings is a personal style choice. As long as the first letter of the heading is a capital letter, then the heading is grammatically correct.

    Enjoyed the rest of the article though.

  • http://www.bodybychocolates.com/xo/gs/endulge.htm Guy Siverson

    Good advice to following when writing articles for the web.

    I’d add a couple more points if it were I.
    1. Keep paragraphs short
    2. Use bullets and numbered lists
    3. Have fun, it will show in your work.
    4. Use spell check and grammar check

    Also, if you use a site like Associated Content you can actually be paid for your work.
    ===> http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/565086/guy_siverson.html

    The Body By Chocolate Man
    Guy Siverson
    TWITTER: http://Twitter.com/BodyByChocolate

  • http://www.eyefruit.com/ Scott Buchanan

    I disagree with your point about overuse of punctuation. The problem is not the amount of punctuation but rather the incorrect use of punctuation. Using commas correctly actually aids readability by breaking sentences into organized chunks (in fact, that’s why it was invented in the first place).

    Your bad example is bad because it uses incorrect punctuation. The comma is improperly present, and the semi-colon should be a colon after the phrase “the best shoes to buy.” The reworded sentence is better because it uses a concrete subject, but the primary problem is the punctuation errors.

  • Kevin

    The two spaces thing was never a typographic convention until typewriters came out (as Brian pointed out). It’s not just a web thing—this rule applies EVERYWHERE!

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/dame+scribe Gin

    I believe my favorite part of writing is reviewing and pruning. It’s very annoying when flow of a article doesn’t make sense with misspelled words or punctuation and leaves one scratching their heads wondering what was the point again? great points made here.

  • http://feb28.com Ethan

    While I’m sure these are all very good tips, they only apply to a subsection of the web (such as business sites and professional blogs).

    Sites like Cracked, PerezHilton, and Gawker have become enormously popular in spite (or perhaps because) of constantly breaking all of these rules. These tips don’t even apply to MySpace, Facebook, or YouTube. News websites function under an entirely different set of style guidelines. And Twitter would be rendered useless if you adhered to these suggestions.

    And should I even bother pointing out that THIS site barely follows this advice?

  • http://www.safetygoat.co.uk kat neville

    Your summary on the homepage has a typo: “Tips on how to write properly of the web as well as a review of some of the most common mistakes ”

    “of” should probably be “on” or “for”.

    Sorry to add onto the slew of anal comments :)

  • http://www.creydesign.com Chris Reynolds

    The single space after a period habit is going to be beyond hard to break. I’ve never heard that before, but I can certainly see how it would be true.

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      I resisted it at first but after researching the topic I gave in. I think this is something that everyone over the age of 30 that learned to write pre-web has to deal with. Change is good!

  • http://www.clelandillustration.com Josh Cleland

    Great post. One of my biggest pet peeves is the wrong use of “their”, “they’re”, and “there” (and other similar examples: to, two, too etc…).

    The double space after a period is number two on my list. That’s a big no-no in the print world as well.

  • Tim

    Tip #14 should more accurately be titled “Contraction Use”

  • Joseph S.

    “Web readers are reading your site to get information, not opinions.”

    Then why are you giving us your opinion on the serial comma?

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      I did state earlier that I meant that specifically for commercial site copy, not blog postings. I will probably clarify that further in the article based on your input. Thank you!

  • BebopDesigner

    Great advice! English is not my native language and writing isn’t my best skill either (I’m really rubbish at it :b ) This is really handy. Cheers!

  • Daniele

    Good post. I agree, but I’m not sure about the 8 point. Why capitalize the words? I think this is a way of writing in USA. In Italy (where I live) we don’t use to capitalize first letters.

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      You are correct, this is a US convention specifically which is not used on European or some Canadian websites.

  • http://www.kaplang.com Kaplang

    wow I really didn’t know the difference between its and it’s, thanks for sharing :)

  • http://mattpenna.com Matt

    Hi Angela,

    Thank you for the insight. As a designer and editor of printed materials, many of these issue pop up during the proofing cycle. We currently use The Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition (CMOS) as our base. It is a large and hairy beast of a book but provides us with answers to such challenges as mentioned above.

    They have some free answers on their site.
    http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org

    I agree with many of your commentators’ opinions. The ones about “regardless” and “irregardless” are especially vexing. The use of “irregardless” should never be used because it is not generally accepted in written communication. See Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irregardless). I agree that overuse of “regardless” is less meaningful and therefore should be used sparingly.

    I would like to add another tip, use of slashes.
    (Taken from our Proofing Guide adapted from CMOS)

    Slash / (CMOS 6.111–119)
    Single word alternatives: use no spaces around the slash.
    “Is it all right to use just/regardless often in your manuscript?” (CMOS 6.112)

    Multi-word alternatives: use spaces around the slash.
    “Log in with your user name / e-mail address.” (CMOS 6.112)

    One final thought, regarding style, there is one rule that will work in all situations, all things being equal, consistency is most important.

    Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards,

    Matthew Penna
    http://twitter.com/MattPenna

    • http://www.workingwebcopy.com Angela West

      Matt, thank you so much for your detailed comment. I haven’t had to handle the slash conundrum yet, but now I know how. Thanks also for the link to the Chicago Manual of Style.

  • http://www.kerrimchale.com Kerri

    A lot of these are stylistic choices and not hard and fast rules (e.g. 2, 4, 7, 8). Their use depends on the voice of the website in question, any existing style guides, and what makes the text more clear in that specific situation. Some of these rules are good for beginners to try to practice if they are unsure about style, but they’re made to be broken.

    Also, the title for #14 (“Apostrophe Use”) is confusing. There’s never a time to consider “whether or not to use apostrophes”. A word either requires an apostrophe or it doesn’t. There is, however, a time to consider whether or not to use contractions. I think that’s the word you meant to use.

  • http://www.sametomorrow.com/blog Adam

    Very well written article with lots of important information. I can definitely take a couple of pointers from this.

  • http://www.myinternetmarketingblog.com Lanre

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.leemunroe.com Lee Munroe

    Nice useful list. Never actually heard of leaving 2 spaces after a period

  • http://the-dro.com The Dro

    Regardless does have meaning. It means without Regard. In other words, without due thought or consideration.

    Let’s say the light show didn’t work and that’s why the show couldn’t go on. Then you would be stating Regardless in the sense that even though the light show isn’t functioning properly, the show must go on. Of course, it’s easier to say, “Regardless, The show must go on.”

  • http://www.evilgeniustees.com Mrs Evil Genius

    Argh! You point out several common grammar mistakes then turn around and say “If a writer is rushed for time, they may write something like …”

    “A writer” is SINGULAR. If A writer is rushed for time, then HE may write … NOT “they”!

    I’m hoping someone has already pointed this out to you.

  • http://cyberfly.freehostia.com Tobey

    A very fine article indeed.

    Thanks!

  • Phil

    Per Number 6: You violate this guideline numerous times in the article, which likely proves just how useless it really is. The goal should be to express your thoughts concisely, not to monitor sentence length for length’s sake (not to mention that line length is too much of a variable to really have any real meaning). That guideline is best served for PowerPoint.

  • http://www.nccu.edu dB

    “Your” and “you’re”… Get it straight, for Pete’s Sake.

  • Michael

    I have the opposite opinion about serial commas. I’ve written stylebooks for two companies, covering this very point, so this is a topic I’ve thought about in depth. Because I am a programmer as well as a writer and designer, perhaps my mind thinks in a more formally structured way than the average creative type does. I also lean towards formal, old-school constructions. To me, the *absence* of a final comma is more distracting and awkward.

    In technical constructions, such as are common in application and web programming, it’s the “and” that is always omitted in a comma series, never the comma (for example, you would declare a function as “function(x,y,z)”, never “function(x,y and z)”). I know that programming is not writing, but this illustrates the effectiveness of the comma as a visual delimiter. A comma is a punctuation symbol, and the word “and” is a word. Therefore, a comma stands out from other words more than another word (like “and”) does. This makes it easy to see the structure, and quantity, of items in a series more readily when there is a comma separating each one.

    Besides that, there are common cases where omitting the final comma is confusing. In particular, using compound objects in a series without the final serial comma is tricky, especially when there are only three items. Say someone orders “orange juice, pancakes, and green eggs and ham.” (In this example, “green eggs and ham” is a single dish.) Without the final comma, you would have “orange juice, pancakes and green eggs and ham.” Talk about awkward! Of course, one could rearrange the items, but it doesn’t necessarily get better (neither “green eggs and ham, orange juice and pancakes” [looks like two compound items] nor “orange juice, green eggs and ham and pancakes” [same problem as before] is more clear). And what if they are listed in a sequential order, such as by price? Then you are stuck. In this case, most people would probably use the final comma. But why not be more consistent and use it every time?

  • Pixel Perfect

    A few people seem a little confused by the use of a double space at the end of a sentence.

    As mentioned earlier it was very much a method for working with typewriters, they can only provide one single block of space per key press.

    Most modern computer typography has a little bit of extra space automiaticaly built in to the end of a sentence.

    Screen grabbing and then magnifying the text on this page showed (for my view) that the space between each word within a sentence was always 7px. The space at the end of a sentence was:

    + 3px from letter to full stop,
    + 1px for the full stop,
    + 8 px from the full stop to next letter

    = 12px.

    This spacing is a almost double the pixel count of a single space (7 to 12). To add another space would be almost trebbling the spacing (7 to 19) and would be too much.

    A very crude diagram demonstrates…

    ———7px———
    | |
    —3px—1px———8px————
    | | |
    —3px—1px———8px——————–7px———-

  • http://www.stickycarrots.com stickycarrots

    Great post! I have recently started a new blog and these are some great tips. I appreciate it :)

  • http://www.visual-blade.com Daquan Wright

    I’ve been writing all of my life. It’s not simply a matter of your vocabulary, what’s more important is how you execute your vocabulary and use the right tenses as they are intended. Regardless and irregardless have their time and place, there is no error with the word itself.

  • RoaldA

    Cool, this will come in handy! Thanks! :)

  • http://peekatdebscreen.blogspot.com deb Christensen

    My #21 would be centered text.

    If the language you are writing is normally written left aligned, left align your paragraphs and other content. If it is normally right aligned, then right align them. Don’t center it if you want people to stay to read the content and to remember it later.

    Centered text has a place in headlines and titles.

    Refs:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V01-4NKXWKG-B&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=665da6dd9589b543249ba73d68432abc

    http://wiki.forum.nokia.com/index.php/Text_Usability

  • http://www.newsblotter.org Laura Kinoshita

    Another word to avoid: “that” It can be eliminated in almost ALL cases.

    But my question to you was this: Do you have any opinion as to the Do’s and Don’t of adding hyperlinks too early in your story. Do you risk having the reader jump off and get distracted if you have links in the first paragraph?

    Do you give any thought to this at all, or just link away?

  • http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog Mark Pennington

    Glad you mentioned literary devices. We have to unlearn much of our high school writing to write effectively in the workplace.

    If you are grammatically challenged, or let’s face it, a grammatical snob who will catch the grammatical error in the title of this blog, you owe it to yourself to check out these grammatical pet peeves and tips at Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves

  • http://www.sebinsua.com Sebastian Insua

    I disagree with a lot of what you just said on being informal with grammar and punctuation. I would not recommend changing your style to suit the lowest common denominator. Because, in turn, you will lose out on the more intelligent readers.

  • http://www.tomatom.com Edward Charles

    Think I’ll stick with The Economist style guide and continue starting sentences with But instead of However. #Fail on that point.

  • http://www.qburst.com Godfrey

    Thanks for the article.

  • Jen Smith

    No one picks nits more happily than an editor or professional writer! As proven by the above 104 comments, and this one.

    I disagree with some of your points, but appreciate someone entreating the masses to communicate more clearly.

  • http://www.benjaminpedroza.com Ben

    Some great tips here, Thanks!

  • Rebecca

    I need to show this to half the internet.

    Then and Than are different words and I have no idea how people manage to stuff it up. It’s one of my pet hates and in blogs it’s like a plague caught and shared by the same people who say they’re “board” and mix up the there’s.

  • http://www.fatdux.com Eric Reiss

    These are good general rules of grammar and common sense but hardly web-specific. I was sorry to see you didn’t mention things like tips fo shared reference creation and other linchpins of good web communication.

    Web readers are pretty good about accepting poor punctuation or a misused preposition as long as they get the information they seek.

  • http://www.brandmantra.net/ Website Designer

    Very informative. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up.

  • stevo

    Cool article,

    Just wanted to say that I read in Bill Brysons Mother Tongue that starting, and finishing sentences with ‘but’ is often fine as in;

    But if the final score was boring, the football was anything but.

  • http://the-web-doctor.com Lane

    An error on CNET News reminded me of another common occurrence: the misuse of “effect” and “affect.” Most often, the former is a noun and the latter a verb, but there are exceptions.

    Mrs. Evil Genius criticized your use of “they” for an individual, but I recognized it as just one of the results of our struggle to find a unisex pronoun to replace the despised “he.” I don’t care for it, but I think “they” is preferable to the other suggestions, such as “s/he.”

  • twisty

    I did like the article, it’s always nice to be reminded to clean up our grammar.
    God only knows the effect the internet’s having on our basic english skills.

    I do disagree with your first point though.

    “It’s is short for “it is”, so “it’s all relative” is correct while “it’s color is blue” is not. “Its” is a term of possession, so “its color is blue” is correct.”

    I was always taught by anal english teachers that apostrophes are only for omission or ownership. So “It’s colour is blue” is correct because “it” has ownership of the it’s colour. I am in Australia though so I don’t know if that’s got anything to do with it.

    Also I know I’m using primes instead of apostrophes and quotation marks, but that’s because I’m lazy!

    What was i saying about the internet causing bad grammar?….

    • http://veteranteacher.com Chris

      I was taught that “its” as a possessive pronoun omits the apostrophe precisely to avoid confusion with “it is.” It’s the exception to the possessive apostrophe rule.

    • http://www.bensaufley.com Ben Saufley

      Chris is right. “Its” is an exception to the apostrophe rule.

  • http://patembe.com patembe

    What about the word you, it should be capitalized too or not??? :)
    example: Here I will explain to you what is the summary of our project
    should I write the word “you” as “You” :D

  • lissa

    Thanks for many good tips, but I disagree with #4 about not starting sentences with “and” or “but.” And many others do too: http://www.usingenglish.com/poll/poll.php. Using “however” seems kind of formal for web writing.

    • http://veteranteacher.com Chris

      If you want less formal you could use a phrase such as “on the other hand,” etc.

  • j Gregory

    One more: “IT.” It is so overused that it becomes unclear what it is that the writer is referring. It drives me nuts to reread a it again and again and still not know what it means this time since it was used fifty times in the last paragraph.

  • http://www.shellsuitzombie.co.uk Jonny

    re. 1. It’s vs. Its: I refer you to the title of your post http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/08/the-dos-and-donts-of-dark-web-design/

  • http://www.thoughtsofnature.com Sudarshan Gurung

    Thanks Angela for these interesting information. I follow some of the points you’ve mentioned.

    @Laura Kinoshita: But my question to you was this: Do you have any opinion as to the Do’s and Don’t of adding hyperlinks too early in your story. Do you risk having the reader jump off and get distracted if you have links in the first paragraph?

    I completely agree with Laura. Hyperlinks distract me when reading and I somehow tend to click on them and my thoughts are elsewhere.

    Thanks again for this article Angela.

  • http://www.semblance.co.za Semblance

    This post tie in with the book that I am reading at the moment: On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. What ever I read, it is nice to read a well constructed piece of work that is not just a ramble of words put together. For any one that do not want to read the book, this post is a good summary.

  • http://www.kerrimchale.com Kerri

    @Lauran and @Sudarshan: I *just* read an article on this very topic. I wish I cold remember which blog (the curse of info overload). The article agreed with you, Sudarashan, that you should avoid using links in body text whenever possible, as it interrupts the user’s thought processes. Instead, pull out the links and put them at the bottom the text (or in some other call-out).

  • http://www.cnpintegrations.com Ruskin

    Nice suggestions, I like such suggestions and try to adopt the recommendations.

  • http://cahcepu.com om ipit

    nice post, i must bookmark it cz im designer and writer

  • http://www.chidimar.com Enk.

    The Article was really useful until I was reading.. But it was too long to read completely. It made me bore yet I left.. I’ll come back to read it full again, sometime, soon.
    But some points were really well explained and useful to be explained ! :)

  • http://www.all-maroc.com/vb abdelah

    “I” and “we” have nothing to do with tense.

    And “Regardless” is not a nonsense word and neither is “just”. However, they do need to be used correctly to convey the correct meaning of the sentence and not just thrown in regardless

  • http://www.faramelli.com faragerri

    Hi,

    I think you could seperate this topic between grammar mistakes and design issues. The first one is not only a problem for the web, but a general one: people not being able to write correct English. The last one is much more important, at least for this page: the design itself.

  • http://web-optima.blogspot.com Lisa

    One thing you should keep in mind is pyramid writing. People want to know what they’re looking at first, so they know what not to expect later on. Have your main points first, and work your way down. It’s the opposite to essay writing, and is quite effective in a world when the user will only stay onsite for a couple of seconds.

    It seems like this article is mostly common English stuff. This is more relevant to writing in general than it is writing for the web. It has some good points though! Nice job.

  • http://www.creativeindividual.co.uk Laura

    Good article and some really useful tips. Thanks for clearing up its and it’s for me. I often check it but I think I still get it wrong more often than not.

    Interestingly I can see from the comments that there is A LOT of conflict between US-English and UK-English. I guess you just have to pick your main target audience and write for them or write in your own language’s conventions.

    That’s what we get for having such a bastardised language. And on that note, should that be a Z or a S? ;)

  • rdh

    My peeve would be the use of ‘unique’ or the incorrect use. An item or person is not ‘very unique’. Unique means one of a kind. It doesn’t need any kind of quantification. arg!

  • http://computersservicing.blogspot.com/ venkat

    As I already wirtten close to 700 posts in my blog I don’t know lot of tips mrentioned in this article , these will be veryhelpful for me , bookmarked it.

  • http://www.the-web-doctor.com/ Lane

    And nothing is “awesome” any longer, because EVERYTHING is!

  • NEM

    Your point in #2 would be better taken if your “bad” example were remotely correct. The first comma should NEVER, under any circumstances, be there. The semicolon is incorrect because it can only be used to connect independent clauses, and items in a series are not independent.

    The thing about punctuation is that it’s not garnish; there are very specific rules as to its use. Just because schools have stopped teaching them thoroughly doesn’t make them less important.

    #4: Beginning a sentence with “But” is grammatically correct. So says Gregg’s Manual of Style (which tends to be the gold standard for legal journals and consequently what I’m most familiar with).

    #7: I disagree. There are times when the serial comma is required; there are never times when it is incorrect. That is why most people would be wise to err on the side of using it.

    Otherwise, a good point, but the incorrect punctuation iat the very beginning weakens the credibility of your advice.

  • Alex

    I have far too many etymological pet peeves to describe in a comment box! Do not get me started about the apparent death of the complementiser or prepositions at the end of sentences.

    Although I do not entirely agree with every one of your assertions, such as the Oxford comma issue, it is really refreshing to see an article about a very important but very neglected topic. If it inspires a few more people to learn a little bit about grammar and punctuation, and put it into practice, that will be a positive step.

  • http://webalfee.wordpress.com alfred devanesan Samuel

    Overuse of “Also” – i have to avoid this :)

  • http://www.cnpintegrations.com Joomla Web Developer

    Nice to have such suggestions. I wish to follow your suggestions.

  • http://thejapanjourney.blogspot.com Tim

    I like these tips! In the same vein that people confuse there, their and they’re, I wish everyone knew the difference between your and you’re. I’d call this one of my online pet peeves. This is just one of a handful of things that scratch at the back of my head when reading what someone else has written. It’s / its is also a common source of aggravation — and in fact, misuse of apostrophes in any form.

    Thanks for the article!

  • http://loneplacebo.weebly.com Tony

    Fantastic article! It makes me want to write really badly! Oh, not to be peevish or anything but in the last tip, there is no space after the period before the word regardless. Reading this article makes me wary of my grammar in this comment.

  • http://scarletbits.com h1brd

    Super useful tips, great post to have as reference :)

  • http://www.distrabit.com/distribution.html Worldwide Distribution

    this is a very good article, we like to keep to the princible ‘short and sweet content’.

  • http://www.quickinbox.com Disposable E-mail

    Great post! It’s important to remember those things :)

  • Rob Ragusa

    Very nice work Angela! What’s the deal with exclamation points??!?!

  • http://www.iamkreative.co.uk kevin

    Really useful stuff, my English is generally bad but hopefully the more posts I write the better I will become.

  • http://www.evolveredes.com Roberto

    Great points all of them. Thanks.

  • http://www.jamesallencorporateservices.com DoktorThomas

    Points well taken.
    Very nice advice for simplification of web posts.
    As you imply, some more scholarly pieces may require adherence to traditional norms.
    As one who can use the “;” correctly, so sad to see its impending demise. Guess we all had too many mediocre English teachers in HS.
    Length (word count), visual attractiveness and formatting are tremendously important.
    No matter how great the info, if it is not eye appealing it is going nowhere.

  • http://www.fatdux.com Eric Reiss

    You encouraged us to contribute tips of our own, well here goes: http://is.gd/2vZrr

  • http://2is3.com 2is3

    Actually, Capitalized Headlines are Harder to Read Due to the Same Reasons You Point Out in #2 Overuse of Punctuation.

    Capitalized Headlines are Harder to Scan.

  • http://getstimulustoday.com Matches Malone

    I’ve always liked using irregardless, irregardless of whether others believe it’s a nonsense word or not. Then I show my pretentiousness by citing the dictionary definition, when they insist it’s not a real word. Win/win for me.

  • http://www.cutelittlefactory.com Andrea Austoni

    I, too, expected a different article from the title. What you’re dealing with is mostly grammatical and orthographic errors. They stem from two phenomena, primarily.
    One, people have stopped reading books, which results in return illiteracy. Two, not everybody is a native speaker of English.
    You forgot another horrible mistake, “your”/”you’re”, the first being a possessive adjective, the second being a verbal contraction.

    Most so called web “writers” sistematically make these mistakes, spreading the disease.

    I am not a native speaker of English and constantly check what I write out of sheer respect for the language.

    Languages are humanity’s best collective artwork. Let’s tend to it!

    • http://getstimulustoday.com Matches Malone

      So, then I probably shouldn’t point out that you spelled systematically incorrectly :)

  • http://www.martiandesign.com David Platt

    It’s more like how to write than how to write for the web.

  • http://www.erkasoft.com erkasoft web tasarım

    thanks for tips. thank you.

  • Danny Iovane

    I just wanted to say thanks for the useful summary. It will be good to read back on this later to see how I am doing.

  • http://bloghob.com Rocky Garcia

    Very excellent! I can use this tips on writing content on my bloghob blog which is all about blogging. Thank you for sharing this very informative post!

  • http://www.teahon.co.uk/wordpress Richard Teahon

    Nice piece. I particularly agree with point 19. I was wondering what your view was on SEO writing, as it is no longer about repeating keywords, but writing content using related words and phrases in the article/blog?

    I would also like to say that providing your writing has a flow, then it really does not matter how many spaces you have after a period, or as I know them full-stops.

  • Shaun

    Number Four is one of those writing “rules” that should be honored as much as the 5-paragraph essay; that is to say that it should really be ignored. Everything else though it pretty good – “its” versus “it’s” drives me insane when used incorrectly.

  • Forrest Tanaka

    Another common problem I’m especially seeing on the Web: putting periods and commas outside of quotation marks. You can see this in Point #8 of this blog entry. In the United States, commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks. Britain has different rules.

    The term “acronym” often gets misused as well. An acronym is an abbreviation that can be pronounced, like NASA. An initialism is an abbreviation that can’t (or just isn’t by convention) pronounced, like POW.

    Thanks much for this post of good tips. I especially like #12 about weasel words. You know, they say weasel words are bad (who are “they” I wonder?).

  • http://graphicdesignblender.com/ Preston Lee

    Very useful post. Thank you.

  • http://www.aimonkey.com Waasys

    Good post, thnx!

  • http://www.create-a-website-adviser.com Walt

    Great post Angela.

    Although I don’t agree with all of your points, most of them are useful.

    The bottom line is… ‘Have you built or are you building a website that works?’

    Your tips are like a big Thanksgiving Day dinner — we should take what we want off the table and leave the rest for someone else.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.ImEnk.com Enk.

    Awesome article, enjoying reading and learned a lot of new things about writing ! :)

  • http://ntechnologies.co.cc/blog Nikunj Tamboli

    Really useful tips you have mention in these post, Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article it will help people like me to improve lot.

  • http://www.elitesolution.net ELITE Solution – Web dizajn

    Approach to Web Design is however unique. Besides good design and programming integration, also search engine friendly content is most important issue on the web today. Very helpfully!

  • http://surfersgoldcoast.com Surfers Gold Coast

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE
    you should JUST post more posts like thi… JUST KIDDING! never use just.

    oh, you broke one of your rules. space after period.
    here is the content where the typo occurs below ( Space after suggestion.)
    Happy New Year!

    The first example makes it seem like the person is being talked down to, while the second sentence reads as more of a suggestion.Regardless should be

  • http://www.terrymcdonaldrealestate.com Terry@Charlotte Real Estate

    Excellent and good coverage at 20! You covered all of my pet peeves and a few more. Thanks… followed from Twitter

  • http://www.renaissance-design.net Chris Cox

    Good article, but I’d have to disagree with your conclusion on point #16.

    HTML already provides for marking up acronyms and abbreviations as precisely that. In thhe interests of semantics, it makes sense to do so.

    I’ve outlined my method here:

    http://www.renaissance-design.net/html/tla-confusion-comprehension-fubar

    This has the added advantage of combining the brevity of an acronym with the full expanded text for those who don’t recognise it.

  • http://www.dizzy-dee.com/ Dizzy Dee

    Thank you, this was very helpful, specially since English is not my first language.
    A phrase which I absolutely dispise, on blogs as well as in real life, is “Trust me”. I think its completely useless, and implies that, for some reason, the person should be trusted MORE after this phrase than before? Not sure how that is even possible.

  • http://khoz.me Khoz

    It is really useful article.

  • http://www.writingprism.blogspot.com Smriti

    I am a web content writer. While I was aware of many of the mentioned tips, some others will surely enrich my future works. Thanks! :)

  • http://www.visitusat.com John Kisha

    Usage Note: Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in forma style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. Coined in the United State in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of rrespective and regardless and for the logica absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and – ess suffix in a single term. Although one might reasonably argue that it is no different from words with redundant affixes like debone and unravel, it has been considered a blunder for decades and wil probably continue to be so.

  • TheJudge

    It’s a sad day when you need to explain the difference between there, their and they’re. But they’re you go

    My favourite pet peeve is “Anything-Gate”. See it in newspapers or on-line news sites the most, with anything slightly scandalous being the new “something-gate”. Grr

    In regards to #12 though, I think a lot of people do read sites for the opinions. Isn’t that the whole idea of a blog?

    I certainly agree with #16 though. Acronyms should be explained when first used, as it’s annoying to have to go to another site to work out what the TLA means

    • http://www.zacharymcinchak.com Zachary McInchak

      The ‘opinion’ tidbit in the list didn’t strike me as totally accurate, either. I think opinions are important in the blogging world, especially if your site is offering reviews and/or advice.

  • anidexlu

    Very interesting, there were a couple of things I didn’t know. I’m Argentinian and I studied English since I was 6 years old until 17, so much of this formal stuff I knew. However, I noticed there are some important differences between English and Spanish, like the capitals in the headlines, in Spanish it isn’t right to capitalize all words. It sounded a little bit strange for me!
    Indeed, most of this tips are very useful in other languages.

  • http://www.sitereviver.com/ Site Reviver

    Excellent tips. I didn’t know that starting a sentence with “And” is not good, I often do this mistake :(

    I will surely try to follow these tips for my next articles I write.

    Thanks

  • http://www.zacharymcinchak.com Zachary McInchak

    This was a good list. I still don’t understand who is teaching people to use two spaces before a new sentence. It makes no sense and is totally unnecessary.

  • http://www.bensaufley.com Ben Saufley

    I want to thank you, profusely, for your first point. For some reason, almost without fail, design blogs seem to use “it’s” when they mean to use the possessive “its.” I do not know why it is, but almost every single design blog I have ever read—and I mean this without hyperbole—has made that mistake. So thank you.

    Might I suggest two more pitfalls:

    - Pluralizing with Apostrophes (especially after vowels), which people do for a reason I have never discovered: “I love to misuse apostrophe’s.”
    - Commas After Subjects, which serve no purpose except to force an annoying pause: “The experts, said my writing was atrocious.” It goes without saying that that comma is okay if it sets off a subordinate clause: “The experts, after reconsidering, decided I wasn’t that bad after all.”

    I must also say that “regardless” isn’t a nonsense word, but “irregardless” is. Others have covered this, just seconding.

  • Hannah

    Unless there’s some web writing style guide that mandates all the words in a headline be capitalized, #8 is wrong. The AP Style guide requires that the first word and proper nouns in a headline be capitalized – nothing else.

    It always bothers me when I see headlines on the web with all the words capitalized. Reminds me that bloggers, etc. aren’t professionally-trained journalists…just people who don’t know the difference between a title and a headline. (Titles – of books, movies, etc. – receive the capitalize-every-word treatment. Headlines shouldn’t.)

    Sometimes it’s appropriate to capitalize all words in titles of very formal articles (i.e, those in academic journals), but honestly – writing for the web is very infrequently meant to be formal.

    • anidexlu

      What’s the difference between titles and headlines?

  • http://www.ruralamericaonshore.com Julie Berglund

    Excellent article! Thank you for clarifying a number of question I’ve had lately. Actually, one of the items above I’ve had the worst time trying to convince clients of is the ‘One Space After a Period” rule.

    I remember learning in high school typing that you had to have two spaces after a period. But, once I started in desktop publishing and web, we were told that rule changed to ONE space.

    Most people still hang onto that ‘two spaces’ rule, and I am forced to edit content prior to placing online. I will be sharing this article with all clients from here on out!

    Thank you!

  • Lillian

    I actually disagree with several of these points, and I feel like many important tips for web writing have been left out. For one thing, it’s crucial that your content relate to your headline. This is an article about writing in general, not web writing. And the example sentences are a bit silly. Most people feel that juice is 100% tasty? What?

    The writer makes a few good points about shorter sentences, using more headlines, avoiding excess punctuation, etc. But sentence length is less important than keeping paragraphs short, using bullet points and lists, and avoiding giant blocks of text.

    You could nitpick specifics for forever. Things like contractions, how to capitalize headlines, Oxford commas, and whether or not to use “but” or “yet” at the beginning of a sentence are trivial and vary from publication to publication. (But for what it’s worth, starting a sentence with “but” is a-okay in my book).

    What people should know about writing for the web is that people like to skim and scan. You need to write clearly, concisely, consistently (that’s the big one), and in bite-size chunks, so readers can get the information they want as fast as possible. At the same time, you have to maintain the flow of your words. Keep sentences simple, not choppy, and work on creating transitions that feel natural.

    Above all, make your writing conversational and interesting. I think this should always be the goal, even for professional writing. I know exactly where the author is coming from because I’ve experienced these same frustrations. This article was boring.

    If you’re looking for some basic spelling and grammar advice, check out The Oatmeal’s “10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling.” It’s informative, hilarious, and it has pictures!

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

    If you want some helpful info on writing for the web, I suggest Ginny Redish’s “Letting Go of the Words.”

  • http://twitter.com/michalkozak Michal Kozak

    You’ve covered some great stuff here.

    What I found useful:
    - 2. Overuse Of Punctuation
    - 12. Weasel Words
    - 16. Acronym Use

    Thanks.

  • http://hanibaal.com Hanibaal

    Good tips… have been been hesitating to start writing online but hopefully reading this will encourage me to do so…
    thanks

  • http://ingebjorghuus.com Ingebjørg

    Great tips and very useful. I will bookmark this site and use the tips while writing. English is my second language so any tips on grammar is useful to me. Thanks for the valuable article, it is beautiful written :-)

  • http://www.intertec.com.au perth web

    content is often overlooked – nice article

  • http://karthickkumar.com Karthick Kumar

    I am blogging for about 6 months, but after reading your blog I noticed my mistakes, a lot to improve. Thanks

  • http://masenchipz.com Masenchipz

    may be write for money :P

  • http://inglesnarede.com.br Renato Alves

    A complete list. Thanks!