Whether writing for an online catalog, a blog or an e-newsletter, certain rules hold true. (In many cases, they’re similar to those your 8th grade English teacher taught you.) “How to write for the Web” at USC’s Online Journalism Review, edited by Robert Niles, offers some concise tips for highly effective online communication:

Keep it short and sweet. Online readers have remarkably short attention spans. Expect them to skip over flowery prose and any paragraph running longer than five lines. Break text up with bullet points, bold headers and block quotes.

Maintain an active voice. Overly complex tenses (e.g. will have been) and overuse of the passive verb “to be” (e.g. is, was or were) lend a passive tone. We handily exceeded expectations has more punch than We will have handily exceeded expectations or Expectations were handily exceeded.

Attribute your sources. You earn maximum credibility by making it easy for readers to find your source material. Provide a URL (a Web page’s address) or—even better—a hypertext link (a highlighted word that links to the URL) embedded in your text with simple html codes.

Finally, do a quick spell-check before publishing. Even one mistake looks sloppy and can weaken your authority on the subject.

Learn more here at the Annenberg Center for Communication at USC.

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