If you are a seasoned blogger or online content writer, this post may be a little basic for you. For others just learning how to maximize their writing on the Internet, however, this post is a solid education in what not to do.
There are many great writers creating content on the Internet, but even the best writers can falter when it comes to sharing their work online. No matter how talented a writer may be, or how thoroughly they’ve researched their topic, a seasoned writer can still make rookie mistakes. If you want to write compelling viral content or fascinating articles for consumption online, these are the most common mistakes that you need to avoid.
1. Long Paragraphs
Most of us were taught in school that a paragraph should be at least 5 sentences long. But sometimes, when writing online content, even a meager 5-sentence paragraph can be a chore to slog through.
Consider the width of a column for a blog template. Chances are that your word processor is far wider than the blog where your content is going to be hosted, so plan your paragraphs accordingly. The eye of the average reader online tires easily, so provide paragraph breaks every 2-6 sentences, especially when writing for an entertainment/humor site.
2. Forgetting to Check Your Sources
Let’s think about elementary school again. You probably learned that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree, that Columbus proved the earth was round, and that Ben Franklin discovered electricity in a thunderstorm. And in all three cases, those stories are wrong. Just goes to show you that even when you think you know what you’re talking about, you probably don’t.
Check any factual assertion that you make, whether it’s a statistic, a date, or just a piece of “common knowledge”. Oh, and while you’re fact-checking, don’t forget to actually cite those sources when you go to write your piece.
3. Tossing Out the Funk and Wagnalls
Yes, it’s a brave new world for writers and publishers. The Internet is constantly changing the way we write, publish, and access content…and the way people communicate on the internet is contributing to the evolution of our language.
But it’s very important to remember that just because a phrase or spelling has become common, it isn’t necessarily correct. Don’t rely on the spellchecker to tell you when you’ve messed up, and DEFINITELY don’t rely on Word’s grammar check.
4. Starting a Flame War
No one ever does it on purpose (well, okay, some people do, but mostly just trolls), but starting a flame war is easier than you might think. Someone has something negative to say about your writing, you respond, and all of a sudden things get out of hand.
9 times out of 10, you’ll be creating content that will be hosted on a site that supports comments. While responding to those comments is important for creating a community, respond to them with civility. Don’t get dragged down to the level of negative commenters, and make sure to use a spam-blocker if you are hosting the content on your own site.
5. Missing Great Opportunities
When you write content online, you should make sure to do a couple of VERY basic things to ensure the success of the piece, and also to ensure your future success. Don’t miss opportunities to link to your other pieces, as well as other related articles on the same blog. And of course, you should always provide some form of contact information, such as a link to your website.
You should also offer easy ways to share your content, either through a Twitter widget or a Facebook Like button. And every post/article should end on a concluding note, and feature a call to action for your readers. You know, sort of like this:
Again, this is just an ultra-basic list of the most common mistakes people make when writing for the web. It’s by no means comprehensive, but it does cover some of the most basic problems. But what about you? What’s your biggest pet peeve about writing online? Tell us in the comments below!