Most online readers will scan your copy before deciding whether to read it. The decision is made within seconds – often three at the most! If visitors don’t become engaged with or understand what they see, they’ll hit that “back” button or close that browser window.
We want you and your copy to succeed. Writing with integrity, writing concisely, and conveying your point quickly will help you convert these scanners to readers. These suggestions from “The Yahoo! Style Guide” will also help:
Strive for excellence. The more meaningful, well written, compelling, and engaging your copy is, the more successful it (and you, as a Yahoo! contributor) will be.
Get to the point. Since your content has a few seconds to encourage people to read more, don’t make them work too hard to figure out what your content is about. Ensure that your opening sentences clearly state in an engaging way the main message of your article.
Keep it short. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Keep articles short (~400 words) by sticking to the point. Even in short articles, you can still keep the text conversational – not choppy.
Front-load. Place the most important words at the beginning of sentences, headlines, and subheadings. Place the most important ideas at the beginning of paragraphs and at the beginning of the article. Don’t bury important ideas or save the best for last.
Keep it simple. Include only one or two ideas per paragraph. Choose common words instead of more difficult ones. Expand into a series of articles when needed (rather than cramming too many topics into one submission).
Construct clear, compelling copy. Write copy so that humans can quickly grasp the message and search engines can understand it for search results. To accomplish both as easily as possible and to help you attain more readers, consider the following:
Write concisely and in the active voice. In general, use the present tense unless you are discussing events that have already taken place. Often, writing in the first person works very well when you’re sharing a personal story or advice.
Your first paragraph should summarize the content in an engaging, concise way. Each paragraph should represent one idea. Front-load information within each paragraph. Keep each paragraph short – two or three sentences should suffice in most cases.
Making lists is a great way to draw a reader’s attention, make the text easier to scan and read, shorten copy, relate items, show a sequence or hierarchy of importance, and present overall well-organized content. When deciding betweennumbered lists and bulleted lists: Use numbers to show sequential order (such as showing steps in a process) and to indicate importance (top 10 ____). Use bullet points to group related items when sequence or importance is not a factor.
Headlines and Subheadings
Meaningful, accurate, and engagingheadlines and subheadings are most effective. Incorporate the main keywords of your content as often as possible without detracting from the readability of your content. Quality should always trump searchability, but you can often meet both goals. Bolding subheadings is especially useful, as long as it is not distracting or confusing for your readers. More tactics:
Bold a short lead-in sentence or phrase (like we’re doing here). This works well with lists that feature just one or two sentences per point.
Use floating subheadings (like this one)
This approach works well with longer paragraphs. Consider this approach in paragraphs of three or more sentences.
Add another level of subheadings. This is helpful when you expect to have more than one paragraph within a subsection of the article. This is another list-friendly approach. When you are listing related ideas, each of which needs a paragraph description, use one floating subheading followed by paragraph subheadings to keep the content organized.
More tips for clear copy from “The Yahoo! Style Guide.”
More information from “The Yahoo! Style Guide.”