7 quick rules for Internet writers

Internet writingTo get the best results and better traffic for Christian websites, writers need to rethink their approach to organizing text, writing their material, and creating headlines. The Internet requires new writing skills.

Here are seven quick rules for better writing on the Internet.

#1. Use enticing headlines. For people to get to your post, the title must grab their attention. It’s marketing-type stuff to pay attention to your title, but it applies to all Christians who write and post on the Internet. After all, if you can’t get people to click your link and open your post, your effort is for naught.

#2. Tell all in the lead. The first paragraph is also important. You may lose the reader in the first sentence if it doesn’t pique interest. Get the basic message in that opening paragraph.

Add to that many RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, and Facebook posts often include the first part or the whole of a paragraph, which is all people will see before judging whether to click and read. So I’ve radically changed my approach. Here’s what I don’t do any more:

#3. Don’t start by quoting a Bible verse. I used to, often. Not any more. Because posting the verse first doesn’t give people an idea of where you’re going, what you’re going to say. If they want to read a Bible verse, they’ll go to BibleGateway.

#4. Learn from reporters. The journalistic practice of the lead paragraph and the inverted pyramid deserve application to the way the Internet works. Although Biblical studies, meditations, and posts aren’t journalistic material, we need to rethink the way we write because of the way people first encounter our material on the Internet and because of the way they read — or don’t read — by skimming.

#5. Break it up. That also means shorter paragraphs. Yes, even with single sentences, if warranted.

#6. Slow ’em down. The old wisdom was not to clutter the text with lots of caps and other eye-trippers. The new wisdom is to use bullet lists, subtitles, and other segmenters that will make text easier to digest.

#7. Pare it down. Another rule, to be applied judiciously since one size doesn’t fit all, is to be concise on the Internet. Most people won’t hang around for long. Say what you have to say, and be done.

The more care we take to adapt our writing to the Internet style of reading, the better we’ll capture people’s attention and have opportunity to communicate our precious message.

Can old dogs learn new tricks? Are there other, yet undiscovered, rules for Internet writing? Do you think these items are applicable to your efforts?

Revised 2015-02-14.