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From the author of Tip 2: Don't Make Me Read

Tip 2: Don't Make Me Read

When readers land on a web page, they just want to find what they're looking for and then zoom off. Most don't have much time or patience. If they stumble onto long paragraphs, the text is tediously redundant, or they have to study, search, or backtrack, readers will jump ship and head back to Google to search for better content. Following these best practices can help you to keep your readers' attention and ensure that they find what they need quickly:

  • Write succinctly. Learn to spot redundant terms, which often come in pairs, such as "past experience" and "close proximity." Write with strong verbs that don't need adverbs to bolster them. Use specific concrete nouns and remove excessive adjectives. Be wary of phrases that come to you quickly because you've heard them many times, such as "on account of the fact that[el]." Such expressions are often stuffed with needless words.
  • Stay focused. Make sure that you're working with a plan and your web content is built to fit the plan. Before you start crossing out words at the sentence level, think of the big picture. Look at your story as a whole and examine its structure. Entire sections probably can be cut—content that wanders off topic or contains tangential information that doesn't support the main idea.
  • Be positive. Your tone is much lighter and you'll use fewer words if you write positive rather than negative statements. For example: "Write positive statements" is three words. "Do not write negative statements" is five words.
  • Keep verbs active. When vague and nondescript verbs slip into your writing, the words pile up and nothing much is said. Watch out especially for passive voice, instances of the verb "to be," and other dull verbs such as "do" or "got."
  • Kill happy talk. Readers don't want to be congratulated, welcomed, or told how smart they are for choosing to read your content. In his article "Blah-Blah Text: Keep, Cut, or Kill?" Jakob Nielsen says it directly: "Kill the welcome mat."
  • Omit hype. Don't make readers feel like you're a used car salesman. Their radar for a sales pitch is sensitive, and they'll shut down in a heartbeat if you start using phrases such as "limited time offer" or "at the touch of a button."
  • Cut word count by half. Make this your challenge. After you've ruthlessly cut down the word count, put the work aside for a short time. Then cut some more.
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