5 Dastardly Writing Choices that Disrespect Your Web Audience

pile of words

pile of wordsIf you blog, write enewsletters, or want to write your own website text, you have a special responsibility to your audience on the Web. You want their attention, and presumably their business, so what have you done for them lately?
Welcome to my list of the top 5 dastardly writing choices that disrespect readers on the Web. Each one can bore or alienate your audience at worst, or at the very least encourage them to pack-up their valuable attention and flee your scene.

5. Failing to define or link acronyms when you use them.

If you’re ready to learn about SEO, then it’s time to start paying attention to SERPS.

Unless your web audience consists of other experts in your field, you should at least define acronyms the first time you use them.

If you’re ready to learn about SEO, short for search engine optimization, then it’s time to start paying attention to search engine results pages (SERPs).

Better yet, remember where you are. It’s the Internet, just link!

If you’re ready to learn about SEO, then it’s time to start paying attention to SERPs.

4. Refusing to provide links to ideas, events, publications, or people, that would add context for your reader.

Usability principles matter on the Web. Even the U.S. government promotes website usability to help its agencies provide better customer service.

Prove it! Your readers want references and it’s your job to point them in the right direction if they want to learn more. If you can’t, it’s a blow to your credibility. If you won’t, it just seems lazy.

Usability principles matter on the Web. Even the U.S. government promotes website usability to help its agencies provide better customer service.

3. Relying on the disembodied voice instead of just coming out with it—the view from nowhere may claim authority, but it has no ground to stand on.

The relevant data was revealed and it was agreed that better decisions would follow in the future.

Huh? Who said what? Who agreed? I want to know! Tell me or stop wasting my time! Good writers take responsibility. We all know that there are people and issues in that sentence somewhere—why hide the specifics from your readers? It certainly doesn’t make you sound like an authority…

2. Over-using passive voice—the subject of a sentence should usually take responsibility and move the action forward.

In an active sentence, the subject does something to or with the object.

Jane blogged about Cookies-R-Us last week.

In the passive version, the active order of things gets upended when the object is used as a subject—and Jane disappears.

Cookies R-Us was blogged about last week.

Using the passive voice often (but not always) leads to awkward sentence construction and lots of yawns. Stop it.

1. Forgetting about your reader, ignoring what they want from you as a writer, and losing sight of what they want from any given thing you write.

If you’re writing for your business on the Web, it’s never too early to take your ego out of the loop. You may be the best thing since sliced bread but very few people want to hear all about it.

Show them instead.

Focus your efforts on creating prose that is clear, concise, and pleasurable to read.

Remember that the text you struggle to perfect is not an ode to your perfection. It is a gift to your reader. Even though that gift may be carefully crafted to support your business goals, if it works for your reader it is a gift nonetheless.

Write thoughtfully, package your prose carefully, and always remember the intended recipient.

In summary:

  1. Write for your audience first (even when it’s all about you).
  2. Keep your voice active and your reader awake.
  3. Be specific, take responsibility for what you write, and strive for clarity.
  4. Provide useful links.
  5. Define your terms.

And last, but not least—if you want to up your game, get professional help. I’m here when you’re ready.