Tips for Editing Web Content

Editing your content for the web requires acknowledging, first and foremost, that people use and read web content for different reasons than print. Once you understand that basic difference, you can edit your content (and, ideally, compose your content) with a focused approach.

Here are some basic tips to follow to ensure success with your web readers:

Tips for Editing Web Content - Title

This is useful for all types of writing but for the web it is critical. Cut out any wording that doesn’t speak directly to the audience you are trying to attract – and if you don’t know who that audience is, spend some time to figure it out first. Make sure you know who you want to reach, what you want to convey, and what you want the reader to do with your information. If this isn’t clear after your first draft, rejig it until it is.

Write in the Active Voice

Make sure your sentences are consistently written in active voice. This means the subject is doing the action, rather than the subject having the action done to them. For example: “Jane read the report.” (active voice) vs. “The report was read by Jane.” (passive voice). Active voice sentences are clearer and more concise than passive voice sentences – just what you want in your web copy.

It may not seem like a big deal to have a few extra words in a sentence, but on multiple web pages it can make a big difference in readability. Precise and to-the-point should be your goal. Also, readers are more likely to be engaged when you speak to them as “you”. The active voice connects emotionally to readers.

Use the Inverted Pyramid Method

This is the practice of putting your most important information first. Don’t assume reader will stay with you to get the nugget of information they want, buried at the end of the paragraph. Readers skim on the web; they don’t read as they would with a book magazine or newspaper. If you put the nugget first, readers will “reward you” by staying on your page.

Tips for Editing Web Content

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Chunk it Up

Get rid of big paragraphs of text. During the writing process, it is fine to get all your information down, without regard for length. But during the editing stage, break up your paragraphs if they are too long – and vary the length of your sentences. Chunk information by ideas and have a clear heading for each paragraph.

Tips for Editing Web Content - Guy Typing

Keep it Simple

Unless you are writing on a very specialised topic, keep your vocabulary basic and your ideas clear. If in doubt, ask yourself if a 12-year-old would understand what you’re writing. You can convey the same meaning using simple words and your readers will stay with you. Use a fancy word when a simple one will do and readers will click elsewhere. Remember, readers are skimming for information to suit THEIR needs – not to glorify your writing resume. 

Get Rid of Superfluous Links

Too many links do not add value. Only keep the links that truly benefit your readers. Ideally, you want to keep your readers on your pages, not have them click away.

Use Sensory Words

Get rid of boring clichés and any tired jargon. Use language that will literally grab reader’s attention. (Don’t think that this means using a complicated, unusual word that you’ve been waiting to use to impress people. Online, it won’t.)

Be a Perfectionist….and Give It a Rest

Do a careful and thorough check for proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Simple errors are easy to miss if you rush this process, and this will turn off readers who will look for credible content elsewhere. Good editing takes time. It often takes several sittings to get a piece of content right. Read it again a few hours later, and, if possible, get someone else to read your piece too. Another set of eyes is invaluable.

Erica Osburn
Jun 27, 2017
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