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Writing Well For The Web
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Writing for the web is open to anyone. With options ranging from free, user-generated sites where the only qualifications required are the ability to sign in, to professional content broker sites requiring experience and published credits, there's a way to get your knowledge and viewpoints out to the world. But gaining credibility and authority as a writer requires a sound command of your tools -- both technological and linguistic.

Think of those words on the (web) page as your introduction to a readership. First impressions count, and spelling and grammar errors, confusing sentences and sloppy organization compromise the message -- with potentially serious consequences for achieving your goals. A recent campaign by an online marketer who claimed to make millions daily included a video that consisted of a series of PowerPoint slides riddled with grammar and spelling goofs. Makes you wonder about the quality of his other materials, doesn't it?

Showing up online with bad writing is like meeting a client for the first time in your pajamas with a serious case of bed head. Although not everyone is, or wants to be, a dedicated writer, there are some things anyone can do to present a spiffier online presence.

1. Technology is your friend. Every word processing program has built-in aids. Get to know them. What does a red or green underline mean? Spellcheckers often provide several options for a perceived misspelling. Investigate them all to find the best fit. If you have access to a grammar checker and thesaurus, use them.

2. Expand your vocabulary. Learn a new word or family of words every day. Establishing credibility as someone to trust, an authority in your field, depends on writing in the correct register -- formal or informal. Writing with a limited vocabulary is like coloring with the basic box of eight crayons instead of the whole collection.

3. Read, read, read. Not just other online posts, but a variety of texts from everywhere. Expose yourself to examples of skilled writing in both fiction and nonfiction. You'll absorb strategies and techniques along the way. Every writer, from poets to journalists, has something to teach about using the language, developing style and capturing readers.

4. Let your voice be heard. Just as we can recognize different voices when people speak, we can "hear" different voices on the page. Writing is much more than stringing together words and phrases. Word choices, turns of phrase and even organization of ideas create a personal style that identifies you on the page. Readers return again and again to "listen" to writers whose voices they like.

Writing well for the web is no different than writing well everywhere. But the immediacy of the internet allows us to instantly connect with readers, creating first impressions that can be positive or negative, with no second chances. The words are the writer -- it's important to make them the best they can be.


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