Cut! How to Shorten Your Web Articles

Picture 12A recent commenter here at FWJ wrote she was having trouble making the transition to web articles from traditional print. Writing for the web is significantly different as I pointed out in “P.U.! Why that Web Article Stinks.

When people go to the web, they are often in short attention span mode.  Most readers hit the headline, skim for the important points and are onto the next piece before you can say, “Whoa!” If you bring your print mentality to the web you’ll find yourself dropped faster than a 486 PC. So how to make the cut?

  • Bullet points and headlines.
    • Both work wonders in directing your reader’s attention to the main point.
    • Bullet point ideas are short and to the point.
    • Any information needed beyond the main idea can be added below keeping info clear and concise.
  • Figure out what the audience needs.
    • If you are writing an article on fixing a dripping faucet, your readers do not want to hear about the history of modern plumping. Get to the point.
  • Cut out ‘that’ and all of those other extra words.
    • That‘ is a word (that is) often used to transition throughout a sentence, but if you eliminate it during editing, you’ll find (that) you don’t need it.
    • When you’re first transitioning from print to web, go through and read each paragraph and ask yourself if you can say it in less words while keeping the ‘voice’ of the piece.
  • Turn it into a series.
    • If you have the opportunity, turn your long article into a series, breaking it up into shorter, manageable bites.
    • This is easier to do with blog posts, though an editor may be open to it as it is likely to drive more readers back to the site to read the next piece in the series.

Writing for the web requires tight writing. Be sure to suck up any extra words without sucking out the personality. It’s like putting on a girdle without cinching yourself to the point of becoming immobile. My male readers will just have to trust me on this one!

Got a question or lament? Tell me below and you may just become the inspiration for my next post. *Thank Jen for this one!

Comments

  1. Females, too — interesting analogy! Does anyone wear girdles anymore?

    Love this article and am linking some of my writing students to it. Great tips!

    I’d like to add that passive voice and passive verbs (using is and was rather than more “active” verbs) also lengthens writing. Re-phrasing to more active verbs not only makes the work read “faster,” it often takes out extra words.

    I often recommend Ken Rand’s 10 % Solution as a great way to cut excess words. The 10% Solution

    Love your title, by the way. :)

    • Hey Dawn!

      Great tip on the passive voice. I’m thinking that might be a good post to hit up later, thanks for the idea!

      I count girdles along with shapewear and control top pantyhose :0) And as many ads as I see for them, yep folks are still wearing them. Who am I kidding? I own several configurations of shapewear

  2. Tania Mara says:

    Just a remark about turning a Web article into an article series: some blog owners don’t like it. I used to deal with clients who loved blog post series, so I got really surprised when I stumbled upon a customer who had a negative opinion on them and asked me to shorten the series I was working on.

    Make sure your client and you are on the same page when it comes to multiple posts on the same topic, even if said client claims you’re free to write anything you want as long as it fits the blog’s topic. You may find out you aren’t really as free as he had told you.

  3. I will sure to try all that I just read for a new website. I know there are differences between Articles and Websites but I have no more intentions of publishing a book on the internet when I reform the Website. Thanks,

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