7 Ways to Keep Your Online Audience Reading

Master web writing and boost audience reading with our with these tips. Making online content creation easy for you.

Here’s the thing: everyone can write, but not everyone is a writer. Regardless of the type of freelancer or solo-preneur you are, or the size of your business, it’s highly likely that you do a significant amount of online writing for your freelance enterprise.

reading on tablet

At its core, writing is a form of communication. The secret to effective communication online lies in the presentation. Here are a few tips to help you write for an online audience. Once you master these, writing for the web becomes easy.

There are just a few things you should keep in mind when writing.

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1. Formatting for Clarity

When writing for the web, improper formatting is considered an offense. After all, reading long blocks of text can be taxing. Nobody has the time to slow down and read; we all scan and skim online.

How to fix it:

Write short sentences for better impact. Try to limit your sentences to 15-20 words at most. Even one-word sentences and paragraphs are acceptable online.

Next, break your text into shorter paragraphs. Three-sentence paragraphs are the norm, but five-sentence paragraphs are acceptable too. Make sure you mix them up with long and short sentences!

If your text requires a lot of items separated by commas, break them into lists or bullet points. Use subheadings to help guide the reader through your text. Subheadings give readers the gist of the text at a glance, helping them absorb more information faster.

2. Avoiding Passive Voice in Writing

Writing in passive voice is so common that most writers don’t even realize they are using it. Unfortunately, passive voice can be detrimental to online writing, as it fails to engage the reader.

Here’s an example of a sentence in passive voice: "The freelancer was hired by us." The same sentence in active voice would be: "We hired the freelancer."

Now imagine reading both of these sentences in, let’s say, an email. Which one sounds better?

How to fix it:

I could give you the technical explanation of how the subject in the sentence performs the action expressed in the verb, but that can be confusing and difficult to remember while writing. Writing in active voice is essentially about creating a connection with your reader.

Instead of referring to yourself or your audience in the third person, write to them in the first person. Imagine yourself having a conversation with someone while writing.

3. Incorrect Sentence Length

Often, non-writers reveal themselves through their sentence length. Online, readers tend to scan. This means that if your sentences are too long to scan, your reader will stop reading and move on.

Any sentence over 25 words – which is already a very generous word count – risks losing readers’ interest. Imagine reading one sentence after another that is too long to read in a single breath. Just thinking about it is exhausting, right?

Let’s conduct a quick test. Go to any online content you’ve written and randomly check the word count of your sentences. If quite a few of those sentences are between 20-25 words, you have a problem.

How to fix it:

Fixing this issue is quite simple. All you need to do is break your text down into smaller sentences. Focus on one thought, point, or idea per sentence.

Ensure the sentence length is between 16-20 words maximum for an optimal reading experience. It will be even better if you can manage shorter sentences.

Make sure your sentence length varies. Too many short sentences can make the text feel abrupt, while too many long sentences can make it tedious to read. Mixing up the length of your sentences will create a better reading experience.

4. Lacking flow

One of the most popular pieces of writing advice (perhaps of all time) is: The purpose of your first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence, and so on.

While the quality of writing is crucial for achieving this, the flow and structure of the writing also matter significantly. If your writing is unstructured and presented in a haphazard manner, your reader will wonder what point you are trying to make.

How to fix it:

Organize your writing into a structured format and ensure it flows logically. Begin with an introduction, then move on to stating all your points before summarizing them in the conclusion.

Format your writing for the web. Use short paragraphs that explore only one idea, and incorporate subheadings, lists, etc., to make it easier to read.

5. Showing Respect for Your Readers

It is crucial to respect your readers when writing for an audience. Just as in face-to-face conversations, we demonstrate respect by being friendly, considerate, and avoiding condescension.

To be honest, there is a fine line between respecting your readers and insulting them. Sometimes, being overly helpful can backfire as well.

Consider online tutorials, for example. If you oversimplify them and explain every single detail, you risk undermining your readers’ skills. On the other hand, if you don’t provide enough explanation, you may alienate readers who find your tutorial insufficiently helpful.

How to fix it:

Identify your ideal reader and write for them. Expanding on the tutorial example, if your target reader is a beginner, detailed tutorials that explain every aspect might be appropriate. If your readers are more knowledgeable, simply guiding them in the right direction may suffice.

For tutorials and all other types of online writing, ensure your writing comes across as friendly and does not make your reader feel belittled.

Using "you" and "your" are effective ways to make your readers feel like you are speaking directly to them, but be careful not to sound patronizing.

6. Lack of a Call-to-Action

Effective web writing aims to persuade your reader to take action after engaging with your content. This action could be as simple as leaving a comment or as complex as gaining their trust to make a purchase. Without a call-to-action in your writing, how will your readers know what you want them to do or why you’ve created the content?

How to Fix It:

Incorporate a call-to-action at the end of your content. If you’re writing a blog post, encourage readers to share their thoughts, express their agreement or disagreement, or simply ask them to leave a comment.

Inviting readers to share your content through social media also serves as a call-to-action. If you want them to make a purchase or sign up for a newsletter, make your intentions clear by adding a "Buy Now" or "Sign Up Here" call-to-action.

7. Improving Your Reach

At its core, improving your reach is as simple as formatting your text, writing in an active voice, including a call-to-action, and above all, respecting your reader. The great thing about writing is that once you know what to watch out for, it becomes easy to improve.

Begin by practicing the aforementioned techniques in your emails. For other forms of online writing, compose as you typically would but take the time to proofread and edit with these tips in mind. After a few attempts, these mistakes will become more noticeable as you write, and before you know it, your writing will have improved!

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