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

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 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?

 

Syzygy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 9:57 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?

Concisely. ;-)

Syzygy

I Will Make It

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 11:18 pm on Aug 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Made me smile there ;)

But didn't you think my post was more interesting when I explained a lot, instead of just letting the question be there all by itself?

esllou

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 11:21 pm on Aug 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

You need to break them up, either into three pages or, better, break them up into different subjects. So instead of writing 2000 words on buying a house, write three articles:

- choosing a new house
- selecting a good real estate agent
- closing the deal!

and so on. That way, you can stick to the style you like and still have a shorter article.

I Will Make It

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 9:15 am on Aug 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

esllou: a great tip! Thanks.

As a matter of fact this is what I did with my last article. I split it up into three pages. With about 550 words each.

Next time I'll see if it's possible to split my text into three articles instead.

I think it works pretty nice!

Liane

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 12:21 pm on Aug 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have read that when writing for the web, I should keep my articles short and to the point. I've also been told visitors hate to scroll. However, whenever I try to write 500 to 700 word articles, they always end up at 1800-2300 as I tend to be verbose.

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

Cut to the chase!

Write your article and then edit for brevity. Cut out any and all "crap" which offers little added value or meaning to the article.

[edited by: Liane at 12:23 pm (utc) on Aug. 10, 2006]

Harry

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 2:11 pm on Aug 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

A trick that works for me is to limit paragraphs to a set number of lines. When I'm done writing, I have to squeeze all of my bla bla bla inside a set number of lines. And if I have a set number of paragraphs too, I need to cut to that amount. Works like a charm!

Beagle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 9:29 pm on Aug 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Kind of depends on what kind of site you have and what kinds of articles you write. If the articles are strictly to give people facts, then cut to the chase and give yourself a limit.

If people come to your site because they like your style or the "atmosphere", then break the articles up into shorter ones - or even into a series.

kaisr

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 9:32 pm on Aug 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

That remembers me of writing short messages on a mobile.

You have 160 (or is it 180?) characters for one message and to save money (I’m writing a lot of them in some months) I'm trying to send only one message at a time.
My trick (pretty much similar to what Harry has written):
Write your text as you would normally do and now go (a few times) through the text, sentence by sentence and remove every unnecessary word.

For example:
Yesterday I went to the cinema. -> I went to the cinema.
In this example you can cut away "yesterday", because in most cases it doesn't really matter when exactly you went to the cinema. It matters that you went there... saved 1 word!

Another thing to think about when you reread you text is, if the reader really cares about it.
Maybe you know the marketing-phrase "What's in it for me?". Ask yourself which information the reader gets from every sentence of your text. So if there is unnecessary information or even no information at all. This is the point where you can cut things short.

I Will Make It

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 7:56 pm on Aug 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Wow.. thanks guys!

A lot of nice replies and great tips.

kaisr: This was a great idea! (BTW, in my country you have 160) ;)

I've never written anything that matters before, except what the teachers told me to write when I was a kid. We all remember those days ;)

Also, English isn't my native language, so I'm trying to get better by writing some texts, translating them from my own language. And I would like to have these texts / articles on my site.

Since I'm not all too familiar with the English language, there are some times when I don't know which words to use, or how to write my sentences in the appropriate way. This makes me write "around it" trying to explain what I'm really talking about, and I think this is the main reason why my articles gets too long.

e.g

This makes me write "around it" trying to explain what I'm really talking about, and I think this is the main reason why my articles gets too long.

I'm sure there's a better way of putting this, but that's the best I could do ;)

Hopefully I'll get better on this as I will countinue to write my articles in English.

Again: Thank you so much for your tips, I'll remember them!

[edited by: I_Will_Make_It at 8:17 pm (utc) on Aug. 11, 2006]

loner

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 5:20 pm on Aug 14, 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?

Gut your your draft.

Example:

I have read that articles written for the web should be web-friendly, 500-700 words long. I often write articles as much as three times as long. Any ideas?

Steerpike

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 6:55 am on Aug 17, 2006 (gmt 0)


I write a long article and then I edit it.

In the words of Mark Twain: "I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time."

tekmoney

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 8:37 pm on Aug 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

"In the words of Mark Twain: "I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time."

Ah, you stole the words right out of my mouth!

That's really the truth. In college i had a teacher that had a minimum of 300 word assignments that he gave out weekly. I realized quickly that its easier to fill up a 1000 words of garbage than 300 words good material. So what I did was write what I could, then go back and take out all of the jibberish, combine sentences and ideas, etc. Over time i've learned to write very concise articles with this method.

wmuser

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 9:05 pm on Aug 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

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.

Funy,but you should really limit your articles to 700 words :)
If thats really a problem then you could split a 2300 words article into 4 separate articles

sabresfan

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 8:17 pm on Aug 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

I would suggest picking up "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

The perfect book for all things writing.

webjourneyman

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 8:36 pm on Aug 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

I must repeat what former poster said, donīt shorten your articles, split them up.
Readers donīt dislike long articles, if they are any good readers love em, the just donīt like to scroll.
You donīt even have to split them into different articles, just insert a "next page" when the text reaches the fold (bottom of page).
It is better to have more words than few, it both explains better and it leaves more words for the search engines to pick up on and makes for a higher word to code ratio (something search engines supposedly like). For the reader it is often easyer/friendlier to read a longer article than one that is boiled down to the bare essence (as long as they donīt have to scroll).

See webmonkey, how they handle it. Iīd rather read one of their articles, split into many pages, with more explanations than a very short concise article that leaves many things out.

Also Jacob Nielsen has some good info on article length and web usability in general (google him, its the top result, use it)

kaisr

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 12:37 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

@i_will_make_it: where are you from?

something else: don't expect yourself writing good/short artikles from the beginning. as everything it takes time to master. so think of at least 3 month writing, to write somehow routined (i don't mean perfekt but at least better than many other do)... and don't give up!

onlineleben

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 1:54 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

some times when I don't know which words to use, or how to write my sentences in the appropriate way.

A good resource to improve english language skills is a dictionary like book called 'Language Activator' (by Longman).
It not only tells you what a word is about, but also (similar to a Thesaurus) other words you can use instead and in which situations to use them.

europeforvisitors



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 3:40 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Short articles work for highly focused topics (e.g., how to buy a use a New York subway ticket machine, or how to use an include file in FrontPage), but most of the time they're just shallow and obvious attempts to feed search crawlers or AdSense bots.

I see this in the travel sector all the time: People will write a 500- or 700-article about London, Paris, or Venice and think that's enough. Guess what: It isn't. The Web isn't a Sunday newspaper, and people who are looking for real information on a topic want to be informed, not teased. If you're going to write short articles, find a way to add value--e.g., with photos or by linking generously to more comprehensive resources.

mrjohncory

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 3:43 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

Shout out to "elements of style" . . . a tight book.

I've seen traffic on our sites run higher when an article is more like a list of informative paragraphs than a sermon. People are super impatient (probably because they're at work when they're browsing); they like articles that hit points directly and move along. And, since a lot of traffic will come from people searching for something within your article, be sure to "label" every theme change (about every two paragraphs or so) with a <h2> or <h3> tag to make your section topic stand out. Also good for optimizing your site in general.

KathieFry

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 4:19 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

<< People will write a 500- or 700-article about London, Paris, or Venice and think that's enough. Guess what: It isn't. >>

As you know better then anybody EFV, there are probably endless numbers of 500 to 700 word articles a person could write about each of those cities. I favor splitting text into more articles rather then using the "next page" approach, whenever possible.

Tapolyai

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 4:25 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have to second europeforvisitors's comments.

I think anything under 500 or so words should not be even considered an "article". More like a topic snippet, or blurb.

Although there is a place for "USA Today" style sites, I think blogs take that position, not sites with articles.

isorg

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 4:33 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

No problem - split it into 2 or 3 articles.

wolfadeus

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 4:48 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree with Europeforvisitors; it also depends on the "personality" of you site, I got one that has almost exclusively pages of 2000 plus articles - it's a hobby-site, but does surprisingly well.

Trying to sum things up:

1.) Try to be concise
2.) Stick with a language you are familiar with or request assistance from native speakers
3.) Split long articles into several shorter ones
4.) Or, if it is too long, structure it well with many paragraphs, sub-headlines
5.) Don't forget to start with an "abstract"-style paragraph in which you explain what information you find in the following lines (which works only if it's a topic that people will enjoy reading long text about, eg some hobbies).

Good luck! W.

ronburk

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 7:15 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think you may be confusing two separate issues. First, is simply the issue that good non-fiction writing gets to the point, and that web readers are more skimmers than readers (Google for "informavore" and make sure you understand the concepts). Second, is the very important issue that any web page that gets free SE traffic is getting readers who may have vastly different needs.

OK, --> write short articles!

Wrong. Realize your audience comes in different classes with different needs. Write for more than one class. Help new arrivals effortlessly get to the information best suited for them.

(fictitious) Example: a web page that ranks #1 for "what mileage does a Prius get?"

1 paragraph may be all that's needed to say what the EPA ratings are for town and highway mileage for different years of the Prius. That's probably exactly what a bunch of people who asked that question wanted. But are there other people who want more? You bet.

So the 2nd paragraph might look like:

"But many Prius owners have been surprised to find that they don't necessarily get anywhere near the EPA mileage rating. To understand why, you have to know how the EPA creates their mileage ratings and why they don't really apply the same way to hybrid cars as they do to traditional gasoline cars. Our article on EPA Ratings for Hybrid Cars explains this conundrum."

In a magazine article, I would put all this information in a single article. On the web, however, which is populated by informavores, I do not want to scare away people just looking for a numerical MPG answer by handing them a 1,000 word article. But I do want to try to sell them on reading a more detailed explanation (and I bet I can!). And, I do want the opportunity to have what was conceptually a 1,000 word article get free SE traffic from people searching for "understanding hybrid mileage ratings", not just "Prius mileage". So, I split things up, and make sure each separated page targets specific searcher needs, and make sure they are all connected so that anybody who jumps in anywhere can end up reading the entire conceptual unit.

And they don't all have to be short. If someone just arrived via Google asking a specific question, then that page probably needs to be short. But if somebody clicks on a link labelled ("A Detailed History of How EPA Mileage Ratings Have Changed Through the Years"), then I know I can hand them a lengthy article -- by clicking on the link, they've said that the short answer is insufficient, and they want the gruesome details.

greenleaves

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 7:56 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

You can:

1- Publish two versions. Write your long article, then make a summary of it. Make it so that your visitor get to the summary first, and on the bottom add a link for the full version.
2- Ditto what was said above, split it, if you can't split it into topics, split it into parts (part 1, part 2, etc)
3- Omit unecesary details If you re-read your post, you will realize that the only important information on your post starts at the words "everytime I try to write a 500-700 words article". Everything before that was un-necesary.

StupidScript

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 9:28 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

As ronburk said ... know your audience.

Whether you split the articles up into pages or into articles or start with a brief (200-300 word) overview with links to the additional information ... know your audience.

What will work best for them is what they have demonstrated their preference for.

As a way to help you get to know your audience, why not put a little poll at the end of each page where the visitor can select their preference? i.e. "This article was too short (need more detail)", "This article was too long (too much detail)", or "This article was just right (just enough detail)"

[edited by: StupidScript at 9:29 pm (utc) on Aug. 24, 2006]

europeforvisitors



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 10:11 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

It isn't just a question of "know your audience"; it's also "know your competition."

I know, for example, that I'll never have as many articles or cover as many destinations as TripAdvisor or VirtualTourist or IGoUgo does, because I'm not using computers to generate pages based on every city or town name (a.k.a. keyword) in the atlas. But, I can cover the topics that I choose to cover in a far more organized, user-friendly, and comprehensive way--and with a more consistent voice, too.

I'd be foolish if I tried to compete with the big corporate sites on their terms. I'm far better off competing on my terms. It's like being a microbrewer: Why compete with Budweiser or Miller when you can prosper by giving your full attention to handpicked market segments?

Lobo

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 10:12 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

KISS .. Keep It Simple Stupid .... kind of works here..

A simple article or review: .. Establish (what it's about)... good points ... bad points .. conclusion ..

Then include links to more indepth info ..

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...

basic article online linked to full article on PDF ...

IMO

mrhazelj

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3040502 posted 10:54 pm on Aug 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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. this is the technology age and most of everybody has short tension spans anyways. i like getting to the point with no selling anyways, just good info.

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