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Writing for the Web

Tuesday 17 August, 2004 (10:04AM GMT)

After writing the previous post and putting it up, I realised how long it was and how completely disinterested in reading it I would be if I came across it.

Man, I don't half ramble sometimes.

Writing for the web is different to writing for any other medium.

Apart from good content, what makes you interested (or disinterested) in reading something on the web?


Comment 1

Are you talking about blog posting specifically, or more generally about writing content for a page on the web?

Clearly, it's important to link to relevant sites/articles to back up what you're saying where possible. Naturally this could be taken to an extreme, but a sensible smattering of supporting material (just like references in a dissertation) not only gives visitors the impression that your posts are authoritative, but also allows them to check whether that really is the case and to easily begin to explore the topic in greater detail.

For instance, it would have been useful for you to have linked to these pages (found with a quick Google):


So said Marcus Tucker on Tuesday 17 August, 2004 at 10:36AM GMT.

Comment 2

I was talking about writing for the web in general really and looking for peoples opinions.
Very good point about the links - thanks for doing that for me!

So said Patrick on Tuesday 17 August, 2004 at 10:45AM GMT.

Comment 3

I think some important things to remember when writing for the web are:

- the literacy level of many users is that of a primary school child so (as Patrick said) write simply. (Did you know that a lot of Deaf people also have trouble with English, because sign language has a different syntax?)

- lots of subheadings to break up text. Users (visually) scan web pages and don't want to read through long paragraphs and/or pages to find the info they want.

Of course there are lots of factors that go towards writing web copy but these are the two I keep uppermost in my mind. And they sure do apply to me when I view web pages. I'm not interested in rambling spiels myself. Just show me what I want to know so I can get out of here. :-)

Vicki. :-)

So said Vicki on Tuesday 17 August, 2004 at 11:58AM GMT.

Comment 4

I think it's important to remember the difference between "disinterested" (neutral, lacking in self-interest) and "uninterested" (not interested).

Sorry, pet peeve!

I thought your piece was OK yesterday - but maybe it's just that I've been waiting so long for a new dog blog post!

So said Chris Hunt on Tuesday 17 August, 2004 at 12:35PM GMT.

Comment 5

It's great to see the Dog Blog has a fan following :).

Me and my damned crap use of the English language (although there's an interesting usage note on - ). Please don't take me as a completely disintelligent buffoon.

So said Patrick on Tuesday 17 August, 2004 at 12:45PM GMT.

Comment 6

besides the four points you mentioned, there's a couple of other things that discourage me from reading on the web. The first is bad grammar and typos. It seems like learning how to spell correctly and use of proper grammar (not a shot at you BTW) is anathema when it comes to the web (especially on personal sites).

The other is poor layout. Maybe it's just the designer in me. Extremely large chunks of copy are really hard to read, especially on screen.

So said Chris Kavinsky on Tuesday 17 August, 2004 at 6:26PM GMT.

Comment 7

Irregardless ;^) of our views on the connection between spelling & intelligence, I still say that correct spelling is so important. I hate reading poorly spelt out sentences. Sometimes you can't even understand the key phrases. It offends me, because it makes the entire reading session a waste of time.

So said Eugene Wong on Tuesday 17 August, 2004 at 7:34PM GMT.

Comment 8


So said Dante on Tuesday 17 August, 2004 at 9:43PM GMT.

Comment 9

Here are some things that make blogs good, in my opinion:

1. Unique Content
2. Humorous
3. Short and to the point
4. Interactive (I don't understand the point of blogs with no comments)
5. Interesting links that I would never find on my own
6. Professional, but simple layout

So said entertainment news on Wednesday 18 August, 2004 at 12:30AM GMT.

Comment 10

I actually like reading on-screen, and the only time I'll print something out is if I need to bring it with me off-line. Therefore I sometimes forget that most people find it difficult to read on the screen, and I'm too verbose.

As Dante said, typography is important for making something easy to read. Preventing overly long lines of text, avoiding justified text, using sufficient leading, and selecting an easy-to-read font helps a lot. Of course the text size should be possible to adjust as well.

Your four bullet points are right on the spot. I'll need to try harder to achieve the first two... :)

So said Tommy Olsson on Wednesday 18 August, 2004 at 6:53AM GMT.

Comment 11

Typography: if you choose no font or font size, the user's preselected preference (or the browser default that hasn't posed enough of a problem to get altered) will be used. That pleases the user mightily, and he shall send forth money.

Well, not money... Maybe money.

Point is, leave the font and size to your user. They know what they like better than you do.

And humor. Definitely use humor.

And full paragraphs. Don't just post tiny spurts of text.

That's probably about it.

So said Neal on Thursday 19 August, 2004 at 7:11AM GMT.

Comment 12

I like to read weblogs that are written in casual, friendly language. They should still be informative and descriptive, but I don't want to read a technical report someone wrote up for work!
(definitely not accusing you of that, Patrick)

So said Andrew K on Thursday 19 August, 2004 at 12:43PM GMT.

Comment 13

Neal - you're assuming the user knows how to set and change their default settings. With some audiences you can probably assume that they do - readers here for example. But not all. And how many of those that don't, will be stuck with Times New Roman?

So said andrew bowden on Thursday 19 August, 2004 at 12:56PM GMT.

Comment 14

As blogs go, I actually think the Dog Blog is rather well written. I'd say at least 95% of blogs I come across make me want to scream. Mostly I end up thinking 'why the hell should I care what you think' or 'do you really expect that to interest me!'.

The Dog Blog succeeds mostly because you write properly about specific aspects of web development, rather than just spouting the first thing that comes into your head. It's obvious from the way you write, and from the other material on your site, that you know what you're talking about. Concise language is important but a punchy subject matter is vital.

If I have to read another long winded account of a computer programmer going to the laundrette, having his hair cut or catching a bus then somebody will die. Write what you know and care about, if you don't have a genuinley fascinating life then please don't write about it. People will just get tired of reading your site and won't bother to search for anything worthwhile that's buried under the fluff.

Don't hate me, I'm all for giving people the power to express themselves. I just don't have the time to skim the fat.

So said Rob Clarke on Friday 20 August, 2004 at 3:46PM GMT.

Comment 15

Well, if TNR is so awful, why don't they change it?

Half the sites I see request a font I don't have anyway, and due to their ancient method of setting font the backup IS TNR anyhow. So we see a lot of this already, and it's not a bad little font after all.

I'm not saying you can't use a sans-serif font ever. But the less monkeying an author does with the user's settings, the better. Less code to screw up too. I've taken to setting either nothing or font-family: sans-serif; as a rule.

Certainly, though, if you set font-size in px or pt or below 1em or 100%, you risk illegibility. Either the user can read 100% text fine, or they have changed the default size in their UA (and, in interest of more info above the fold, likely to the lower end of their readable range). Or, they cannot read 100% and haven't changed it, in which case they're pretty much screwed on the WWW anyway.

So said Neal on Sunday 22 August, 2004 at 5:35PM GMT.

Comment 16

I thought you were pretty tough on yourself ( specially as Oz got a mention:))

Having spent a lot of time trying to learn html, css and php I finally had something I would bother to put on the web. Trying to make it half way legiable, let alone interesting, is actually difficult. It's a new thing for me to try and learn I guess.

So said rbirdman on Monday 23 August, 2004 at 6:21AM GMT.

Comment 17

hi im sofia an i want to write an essay about preppies
can i do it on your web i will get to a point and it will de short

So said sofia on Wednesday 6 October, 2004 at 2:12AM GMT.

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