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Inside Technique : Writing for the Web
By Matt Mickiewicz from

It is very easy to forget that it's not the layout, the graphics, or that fancy JavaScript rollover that attracts people to your site. It is the content. Graphics, layout, and the rest are just the spice. By following ten simple guidelines you can greatly increase the readability of your writing...

1.) Check Spelling and Grammar

Good writing begins with good spelling and grammar. In addition to running all your work through a good spelling and grammar checker, having at least one other person carefully read through your writing is a very good idea. Every article/review that I post on has been proofread by at least one person.

2.) Make it scannable

Most people don't read online content, they scan it. Writing meaningful subheadings, and making them stand out by bolding them is an excellent method of making your text more scannable. Avoid vague, or "cute" headings. Rather, try to have the heading summarize the content of the paragraph below it.

Using bulleted lists to give an overview of key points in an article is also an extremely effective way of making your content easier to digest.

Avoid over-bolding. Overdoing it destroys the entire point of bolding text in the first place, which is to make something stand out from the rest of the page. As a general rule, only the title of the article, and the subheadings should be bold. Likewise, avoid underlining text for emphasis. Underlined text is generally understood to be a link. Italicized text also doesn't work well, because of the resolutions of current monitors.

3.) Blank line vs. Indents

There are two ways to separate paragraphs. Either indent the start of each paragraph, or insert a blank line between paragraphs as I have done in this newsletter. Each method has its own pros and cons. Indents work well for long pieces of text, while blank line typography makes pages more scannable, and creates more white space on a page which provides the eyes of the reader a place to rest. Choose one method, and stick with it.

4.) Alignment, Line Length

In most countries, people read from left to right. Therefore it is only logical that all the text on your website be aligned to the left side of the page. Centered or right-aligned text is difficult too read, causes eye-strain, and is unbearable for long pieces of text. Avoid the urge to center your subheadings, align left, just like the rest of your page.

Newspapers have long realized the value of short line length. That's why most articles are in narrow columns, rather than going across the entire page. Likewise, magazine articles are split into columns rather than going across the entire page. Unfortunately, most designers have not yet learned the basics of good typography. Therefore most webpages have line lengths that are way to long for comfortable reading. Generally, you should have no more than 15 words on a single line, or roughly 65 characters.

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