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How to keep your web content short and sweet

How to keep your web content short and sweet

By Paul Lester

Get to the point

For communicators, this should be the guiding principle for any online content you are creating, especially in the age of minuscule attention spans as a result of the web rewiring our brains. Studies such as those conducted by UCLA’s Gary Small have indicated advancements in digital technology is not only changing the way we live and communicate, but profoundly altering our brains.

With brevity in mind, here are a couple concepts to help you deliver engaging, compelling content that doesn’t waste your audience’s time.

Pyramid power

For more than a century, journalists have used the inverted pyramid to quickly communicate the key facts of a news story. In the inverted triangle, content is organized the following way:

  1. The lede, which contains the most important information about the topic and the “who, what, where, when and how.”
  2. The body, which includes key details about the topic along with background information such as research results or studies.
  3. The tail, which contains additional information or helpful resources for readers.

Although this structure seems old school, it still helps readers easily understand the point you are trying to make. It’s also how audiences are used to seeing information organized. If other words – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Simple sentences

Always use plain, simple language to clearly communicate concepts and ideas. This removes any bureaucratic or technical jargon that could alienate your readers and obscure your overall message. Remember that plain language does not “dumb down” writing; it actually respects your readers’ time by getting to the point quicker. Here are a few plain language tips to help you get started. Also, check out this handy tool that helps you calculate how readable your content is.

Viral visuals

Research shows that our brains tend to process visual information better and faster than written words. Also, content is shared much more frequently on social media channels when it features photos and other visuals rather than just text. Try to use infographics, illustrations, videos and other interactive as much as possible to help your audience understand your message quicker and spread it on their own social networks.

For more on how to say what you mean in fewer words, watch this TED-Ed video and check out HowTo.gov’s guide on writing for the web.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Keith Bacongco

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