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Tips For Writing Short Articles For The Web
I Will Make It




msg:3040504
 9:42 pm on Aug 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have several times read that when writing articles for my site, I should make them web-friendly. I know that very few visitors actually prints an article before reading it. Site visitors come to learn something, and then they go away again. They don't want to make a big deal out of it. (pressing print button, turning their printer on, waiting for the article to print and so on..)

Another thing I've learned is that visitors "hates" to scroll, they want as much information in as few words as possible.

OK, --> write short articles!

But everytime I try to write a 500-700 words article, I end up with 1800-2300 words. This isn't to user friendly. I know lots of my sentences are "superfluous" but the whole atmosphere around my articles are lost if I remove them.

See.. this is kind of an easy question, yet this post is fairly long. ;)

How do you manage to write short articles. What kind of technique do you use?

 

europeforvisitors




msg:3059581
 12:08 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you want to write a more fully comprehensive article yourself I find that if you put this in to PDF format with a link to it, then people know what to expect...

PDF files are great for printing, but HTML pages work better for online navigation and viewing--and, of course, not everyone can or wants to view PDF files. I can see using PDF for something like a white paper, but I can't imagine using PDF for, say, a destination guide with links to other resources. Plus, if the site is supported by advertising, you need pages that can serve ads in real time.

i say 400-600 word articles. to me, even if i'm really interested in it, I'll still skim through it for high points. you have to break it up in smaller subjects.

I break articles or coverage into subtopic pages all the time, e.g.:

WIDGET CITY - destination article

Introduction
Sightseeing
Museums
Hotels
Restaurants
Transportation
[etc.]

Some of those pages might be only 400 to 600 words long, but the total length of the article would be far longer, because few destinations can be covered adequately in 400 to 600 words.

this is the technology age and most of everybody has short tension spans anyways

Not if they're interested in the topic. Readers who are interested in the topic are the ones who are worth cultivating, if you're earning money through CPM ads, AdSense clicks, or affiliate links. As for the people who arrived on the page by accident, or who have 10-second attention spans, they're going to bail out almost immediately whether your article is one page or 20 pages long.

Other observations:

1) The definition of the word "article" is in the eye of the beholder, but on the Web, an "article" isn't necessarily the same as, say, a 4,000-word article or 20,000-word profile in THE NEW YORKER. It might be more akin to a travel guidebook, a software tutorial, a collection of recipes and text for a specific dish or ingredient, or a reference resource. What's more, each page of an article/guide/tutorial/whatever is a separate point of entry from the search engines or your internal search tool. The person who's interested in Widget City museums and finds my "Widget City Museums" page in Google won't have to read a 10-page article on Widget City to get the information she needs--but if she's interested in where to stay, eat, and sightsee in Widget City between museum visits, she'll find that information in my 10-page Widget City guide, and each additional page that she views will be another revenue opportunity for the publisher (me).

2) If you look at some of the really good and successful product-review sites (think DPReview and Steves-Digicams), you'll see that they don't skimp on coverage. The depth of their coverage is the "wow factor" that attracts and retains readers, attracts inbound links, and ultimately contributes to their high rankings in the search engines.

Lobo




msg:3059591
 12:19 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

PDF files are great for printing, but HTML pages work better for online navigation and viewing--and, of course, not everyone can or wants to view PDF files. I can see using PDF for something like a white paper, but I can't imagine using PDF for, say, a destination guide with links to other resources. Plus, if the site is supported by advertising, you need pages that can serve ads in real time.

That is the point .. it doubles up .. you can then send your articles to print media in a format they are happy with .. expanding your online articles to the media is still one of the best SEO and marketing options ..

And I also find that many users do like to print out long articles to keep or read at their leisure... PDF covers these options better..

mrhazelj




msg:3059615
 12:47 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Some of those pages might be only 400 to 600 words long, but the total length of the article would be far longer, because few destinations can be covered adequately in 400 to 600 words.

Well, i it does depend on the subject and who's your audience. i guess the real in-depth knowledge seekers would continue on to read a whole 5 pages.

steve's digicam site reminds me of my new blogs. They're about formatted the same as mines. not too long, not too short. just right for his audience.

europeforvisitors




msg:3059652
 1:23 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, i it does depend on the subject and who's your audience. i guess the real in-depth knowledge seekers would continue on to read a whole 5 pages.

Five pages? That's nothing, if the reader is really interested.

steve's digicam site reminds me of my new blogs. They're about formatted the same as mines. not too long, not too short. just right for his audience.

Yes, and a typical review might span 8 or 9 pages. At DPreview--probably the #1 review site for digital cameras)--many of the reviews are 10 to 15 pages long (even longer, in some cases). Short? No. Successful? Apparently: Phil Askey of DPReview claims 18 million unique visitors per month.

docbird




msg:3059695
 2:00 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Much sound advice here.

But it remains a good idea to buy/borrow good books on writing. Elements of Style a classic.
How to Write Like a Pro is one that was recommended to me, and is excellent (tho hard to get now I think, and sadly can't find my copy).
Ogilvy on Advertising well worth a read - inc his finding that if the writing is good, people will read long adverts; ditto for long articles I think.

Having learned of writing techniques through such books, you can then read strong articles in print and online, see what makes them work.

With the web, I think articles can appear more user friendly if tend to have shorter paragraphs than for print, perhaps with line spaces between each.

europeforvisitors




msg:3059747
 2:58 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

With the web, I think articles can appear more user friendly if tend to have shorter paragraphs than for print, perhaps with line spaces between each.

Good point, especially if your text isn't in narrow newspaper-style columns.

Subheads and bold lead-in text can also be helpful in breaking up dense pages of type, as in:

Widgets

text text text text...

or

Widgets. Text text text text...

lexipixel




msg:3059811
 4:45 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

I liked Ernest Hemingway's challenge to write the shortest story he could -- it up being six words;

"For sale, baby shoes; never used."

robertdjung




msg:3059878
 6:54 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Few will take this advice, but this book is golden: "Writing With Style" by John Trimble. [austinchronicle.com...]

I hate to even tell you -- but it's the secret to writing well.

If you find it useful, PM me later.

uhwebs




msg:3059901
 7:32 am on Aug 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

Great thread :)

I recently took a writing class (I'm in college) and my instructor stressed the point that a good writer should be able to control the length of their paper, and either lengthen or shorten it as needed, like an accordian.

For lengthening, add more facts, go into more specific details. For shortening, remove uneccessary wordiness or decide to not go in-depth...

If you find yourself writing 2,000 words instead of 700, see if first you can cut out the "dead wood" or the "filler" which takes up space but doesn't contribute to the meaning of the article.

If you find you are writing 2,000 words with little filler, you are probably going further in-depth than you originall planned... which is fine!

Think about breaking the article up into several sections, or makign several related articles. You can use each of your main points and just expand it with more facts and information to make several articles.

Example -- Instead of writing "how to write articles", you might write "Selecting a Topic", then "Finding References", then "Writing Smoothly" then "Editing for Length" then "Crediting Sources"...

I am just now beginning to understand how to do this and it has really improved my writing.

VegasRook




msg:3063018
 1:50 pm on Aug 28, 2006 (gmt 0)


I recently took a writing class (I'm in college) and my instructor stressed the point that a good writer should be able to control the length of their paper, and either lengthen or shorten it as needed, like an accordian.

Correct. It all starts with subject. For instance, if you know you want something in the 500 word area, you wouldn't write on something very broad like WWII. Instead, you would keep drilling down until you found something that fits.

Knowing what to concentrate on is important. For instance, I wrote an article about how resolutions work in the U.N. Security Council. I wanted around 700 words. I could have easily went way over that by pointing out numerous examples.

Even then you could get carried away. The Elements of Style is one book that every good writer knows. There's a good chance that 25%-40% of your writing can be de-fluffed.

Don't forget to outline first. It will make the process much easier and help you control your final product.

Writing is a craft and takes lots of practice.

[edited by: VegasRook at 1:51 pm (utc) on Aug. 28, 2006]

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