“Writing Right for the Web”… lessons from 25 presentations in 3 years

“Writing Right for the Web”

“Writing Right for the Web” has been my most frequent presentation topic over the last three years… 9 conference sessions, 5 webinars, and 11 on-campus workshops.

In the next few weeks I plan to start writing at least a “White Paper” and perhaps something longer on the key elements that will help people turn web pages that are impossible to read into web pages that engage visitors within 5 seconds of their arrival on the page. Take longer than that and you are in serious risk of a quick departure or “bounce” from the page.

To prepare, I’ve revisted the Question and Answer reports that were done for people attending the webinars… there’s never time to answer all the questions that are asked during a webinar. We do that in writing after the event and send them along to those who registered. In fact, the Q&A for my last March 30 webinar is on the blog now.

For the next few weeks I’ll resurrect some of the questions with the most staying power and post and discuss them here.

When is a web paragraph too long?

The first question one dates back to the first webinar in February 2006… on a point that’s been included in every presentation since then:

Q: What do you mean when you say that improving a website “starts with a cursor?”


A: Just the ability of a web writer or editor to put their cursor in the middle of a long block of text, hit “Enter” and create a new and shorter paragraph.

Dense text increases quick page bounces


The question is from an early slide that says the best way to start improving the readability of website content is to break long paragraphs into small ones. Do that and readers are not presented with long blocks of dense text when they first arrive on a page. Long blocks of dense text are guaranteed to increase the number of people who flee your page.


What size is best? Aim for not more than 5 lines in a paragraph that runs across about one-half to two-thirds the width of a normal web page. Yes, some paragraphs can be a bit longer and there’s no harm in a single line paragraph. Remember to leave white space in between the paragraphs.


You’ll find a great example of short paragraphs that allow easy scanning in the BBC obituary for Gene Pitney that has been in every presentation since the second one.


New “Writing Right for the Web” Sessions in 2009


Three new conference presentations are scheduled for this summer. To plan an on-campus session, call me at 248.766.6425 or email to bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com


      • June 4-5, Chicago, IL: Aslanian Group, Web Marketing to Adult Students. Register at http://www.aslaniangroup.com/events/default.asp Use “Bob100” in the discount code box and save $100 from the registration fee.
      • June 10, Lake Placid, NY: SUNY College Admissions Professionals. Annual conference. Register online
      • June 21-25, San Antonio, TX: College Sports Information Directors of America, Annual Conference. Conference details are here.

That’s all for now.

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