5 Tips for Improving Your Online Writing Skills

Jun
2010
17

posted by on blogging, freelance writing, marketing, Uncategorized, writing

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Writing for the Web

Writing for the web is not the same as writing for print. If you are going to be writing content that will be consumed online there are a few concepts that you need to get clear on. By now most people understand the fact that we don’t read text online in the same way that we read text in hard copy such as a book or a newspaper that we hold in our hands.

People tend to skim online copy very quickly with their eyes.
The Internet is by nature fast moving and bright and shiny. Our brains and eyes move hyper-fast when we are online and if what we are looking at does not appeal to us, we can quickly get rid of it within a nano-second by clicking the next link.

As writers, we need to get in touch with the way our readers engage with our work online so that we can create a product that will be both useful and enjoyable by those who consume it. You want to craft content that makes your readers stop long enough for you to convey the message that you are trying to send. Your words must draw them in so that they can consume your content and in exchange for their attention you must fulfill the promise of supplying the information they were searching for.

Write for human readers but with SEO in mind.
Another unseen audience that is consuming our content online is the search engines. Since our human readers’ eyeballs are our most important audience we write for them, but it’s also important to keep the principles of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, in mind as we create web content.

Since many of us learned to write prior to the Internet age, there are a few specific strategies that we can employ in order to be effective at online writing.

  • Do Keyword research and write content that focuses on one or two keywords while delivering concise information that the end user is searching for.
  • Link to other related pieces of content within the site that add to topic.
  • Link out to related authority sites that have high search engine rankings and provide additional information for your reader.
  • Use images that illustrate your point and break up the text on the page.
  • Write in shorter paragraphs allowing for sufficient white space on the page to give the reader’s eyes a place to rest.
  • Use bullets and call-out boxes for the skimmers to grab information quickly.
  • Use meaningful sub-headers to introduce ideas.


Tips for sharpening the saw:

This is a list of five tips that can help you to improve your online writing skills, but this does not pretend to be an exhaustive list. You’ll want to keep learning and constantly strive to improve your craft over time–’sharpening the saw’ as Steven Covey calls it.

1. Read excellent writing
While it might sound far too simple and obvious, but reading good writing is really the best way to improve your own writing skills. Read widely on diverse topics. Pick authors whose writing style you admire and read several of their books. Get suggestions for good reads from fellow book-lovers, or make friends with your local librarian.

Here are a few blogs that feature both excellent writing and compelling content for writers:

  • http://www.copyblogger.com/
  • http://www.problogger.net/
  • http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/
  • http://sethgodin.typepad.com/
  • http://www.doshdosh.com/

2. Join a writing group
This can be tricky because a really good, established writing group can be quite challenging to find. You may end up starting one of your own, but find a group of fellow writers of varying levels of skill and accomplishment where you can share your work and get honest feedback on how you can improve it.

There are tons of writing groups online, but I prefer live groups because it gives you the chance to interact with other writers and create real relationships with real people who share your interests. Check out meetup.com to find a local writer’s critique group, or search online writing forums to find local writing groups.

3. Take a class
Visit your local University or Community College’s website to see if they offer an online writing class. It may, oddly enough, only be offered online, but you can find some live online writing classes as well. Other resources for online writing classes include:

  • The Education Portal has an article with links to 10 Universities that offer free online writing classes

    http://education-portal.com/articles/10_Universities_Offering_Free_Writing_Courses_Online.html

  • The Gotham Writing Workshop

    http://www.writingclasses.com/

  • Wrter’s Digest University writing classes

    http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/

4. Hire a writing coach
Working with a writing coach is an excellent investment. If you want to write a book, but you would like to polish up your writing style, a coach can help you to get motivated, get unstuck, create a writing routine that works for your lifestyle, and most of all hold you accountable to the goals that you have set for yourself.

  • http://www.writingforward.com/category/writing-help/writing-coach
  • http://writingcompanion.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/writing-mentor-coach/
  • http://www.genreality.net/ten-reasons-to-hire-a-writing-coach


5. Practice, practice and more practice.

“A writer writes,” as they say. Write something everyday. Set a daily word count goal that you feel that you can stick to, but that will also force you to stretch yourself a bit. Commit to meeting this goal, but don’t beat yourself up when you don’t. Just pick up where you left off. Keeping a daily longhand journal can be therapeutic and help you clear out what’s on your mind so that you can focus on creating good writing.

Keep a blog where you write about whatever inspires you. Write a new post every day and before long you will begin to notice that you are developing a unique style that your readers will come to enjoy.

Additional Writing Resources:

  • http://www.webanddesigners.com/20-ways-to-improve-websites-readability
  • http://www.problogger.net/31-days-to-building-a-better-blog/
  • http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/fifty-50-tools-which-can-help-you-in-writing.html
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