Web Writing: Where Formal Schooling Has Failed You

Updated: Jan 20

We complain all the time about simple, real-world subjects we didn't learn in school:

  • Personal finances

  • Filing for taxes

  • How insurance works

  • The 80/20 rule

  • How Nicolas Cage got legitimate acting roles

Unless you sought out these subjects, chances are they weren't part of your core curriculum.


In this post I'll show you why web writing is an essential skill that should've been taught in your formal education.


Your Composition Class Forgot Half of the Story


In elementary school I spent months learning cursive, long division, and how to play the recorder.... (?)


In high school I spent years learning proper english and how to use a semicolon; however, I never learned how to write for the web.


Don't get me wrong, the writing and composition classes I took in high school were very important.


Without them, I would never would've been able to formulate respectable essays, score well on the ACT (not that well but good enough), or apply to colleges.


And I really do love literature — I studied creative writing in school (for like four months).


But in addition to essays, you need to know how to write for the web.


Web writing is completely different, but just as important.


While you should still stay on top of your grammar, you can throw a lot of the other rules of composition out.


Start sentences with "and", "or", & "but". Don't worry about topic sentences. Break paragraphs into chunks.


Double-space everything.


Why? Because it's how we like to consume content.


People Don't Actually Read on the Internet


They skim.


Heading structure isn't just important for SEO — it's important for your users.


People are online searching for answers, and they want to find them quickly.


They do this by scanning for HEADLINES, bold, italics, and "quotes".


If you open up a page and see a lot of tiny text organized into lengthy paragraphs, you're not going to stay on the page.


You're going to click the back button and hope that the next page can answer your question more quickly.


Unless you're a library, your website is not a place for peer-reviewed articles. Or anything of that nature.


Very few people are willing to take the time to read a heavily worded web page.


Unfortunately, if you don't know how to write for the web, nobody's going to interact with your site and its content.


In my next post, I'll go into more depth on the actual technique of web writing, but like everything else I blog about... learning how to do it is very easy and accessible.


Without Usability, Your Online Presence Is Worthless


If you've read my other posts, you know that I think everyone should be content marketing.


But I also believe everyone should know the basics of user experience design (UX Design).


Why? Because businesses are built around users (or customers).


The same way brick and mortar stores stage products in strategic areas so that people notice them at the right time, websites should be designed with the user in mind.


It should be easy to find, navigate, and interact with a website. And this cannot be achieved without UX design.


But guess what makes up the majority of UX design strategy:


Web writing. And there's a lot of web writing that goes into SEO too.


You can't build a digital platform that people enjoy interacting with without knowing the basics of web writing.


And without enjoyable interaction, nobody will notice you or your content.


If you're not trying to get noticed... why are you putting anything online?


Every Business Needs It


Because at the end of the day, web copy is sales copy.


No business can expect people to learn about, interact with, buy, or use their product or service without copy.


Schools told us it was important to learn how to write because communication is key to every industry.


And I agree. But they left out a huge genre, the web. (Or maybe they just haven't caught up with the world.)


But as dated as primary education can be, these things weren't taught to me in college either. And I took several composition classes.


Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter — because the basics are very easy to learn.


Once you see some examples, you'll get the jist. From there, it just takes practice.


So keep an eye out for next week's post where I'll teach you the basics and show you examples.


Until then, pay attention to the content you see around the web. You can learn a lot about web design through observation and reverse engineering.


And as always, let me know what you think about this post in the comments!


- Ben


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