Keeping your customer interested in your page is not so very different from impressing someone you just met. If someone already knows and trusts you, they forgive your mistakes. But first impressions can color people’s opinion of you forever.
Let’s try another example. I presume all readers here, at one point or another, had teachers. You probably had several types. There was the lecturer, the old guy who should have retired, the straight-from-the-book reader, the scatterbrained one, the overly enthusiastic one, the condescending one, and so forth. None of these were probably very effective as teachers, unless the old guy was just really good at what he does. But if the teacher droned, the students lost interest, like both the lecturer and the one with their nose glued to the textbook. The scatterbrained and overly enthusiastic teachers probably lost their classes’ respect, and therefore were not effective as teachers. And heaven help anyone who gave the wrong answer to the condescending teacher–they would probably feel like recently-ground gravel for the rest of the day. The effective teacher is the one who talked, yes, but also maintained authority, listened, answered questions, and made sure the material not only made sense but was interesting to the students.
This is how your material should be on your website. Keep your customers engaged and they will more likely trust you and be interested in what you have to say. How can you make your content more interesting? I’ll provide a few steps here.
Make your page make sense. This means proper spelling, proper grammar, proper spacing and punctuation, and so forth. If you have trouble doing this yourself, find one of your friends who constantly corrects your grammar (possibly a former friend by now) and let them check what you write. Some people overlook spelling or grammar mistakes, but for others, it’s a signal that you’re basically an idiot. I’m sure there are people who would take a Nobel Prize winner to task for a misplaced comma or forgotten colon in their research. Here are a few important things to remember.
Vary Your Sentence Structure
Using the same sentence structure for every sentence gets old. It makes your reader bored. It makes your writing drone on. People start reading your writing in a monotone. Before long, you end up sounding like Ernest Hemingway. While that may work for Old Men and Seas, when someone picks up that book they either know what they’re getting into or quit rather rapidly. That writing style just doesn’t work in a web page. Throw in some commas, make lists, use complex sentences, put a sentence back to front. It will make your reading more interesting and make your readers more inclined to keep going.
Make the Topic Interesting
I don’t care what you’re writing about, there is some way to make it interesting. If your topic is watching paint dry, talk about the thrilling types of paint, the vibrant colors, the subtle shift in hue as the paint becomes increasingly dry. If you have to write about a slab of concrete, mention the work that went into it or speculate on the people who ran across it. If said content is limited in space, make your sentences as compact as possible to leave room for something of interest. Merely packing information together sometimes makes it more interesting. Which actually brings up another point.
Brevity is the soul of wit, said Shakespeare’s fool in Hamlet. Polonius may not have been the smartest hamster in the pet shop but he did have a good phrase there. The more brief you can make your description, the less time your readers have to be bored or to scroll away. State your point and move on, and chances are your readers will move with you.
If you’re writing a senior thesis and you’re just a page short of reaching the minimum page requirement, fudging some stuff is more permissible. But then your audience is required to read it all–here, they’re only giving you their attention as long as you can keep it, and on the internet, that time span is generally shorter. So be quick.
Speaking of Audience, Speak To Them
Remember who you’re talking to. Play to what they want to hear. If a stand-up comedian isn’t getting laughs, he finds another topic. You should know the people who are interested in what you have to say, and you should talk to them. I’m not talking to the readers here about flowers, puppies, and cute little suns with smiley faces because I expect that most readers here are not young girls. You won’t get someone’s attention if you act like you have no idea who they are.
should be kept to where it is appropriate. Maintain the proper amount of formality. A less formal post, such as a blog entry, may be the place for some humor, but keep it to an acceptable level. You can learn from the stand-up comedian, but don’t become him. And while keeping your humor in appropriate places, remember to just keep it appropriate in general.
Write like an adult. You are presumably an intelligent human being, so show that. Show your personality while you write. And above all, make sure to keep it interesting. You could be writing about the most stupendous stunt a human has ever performed and leave people thoroughly unimpressed if you’re not careful with your writing. But with a little bit of imagination and a lot of care, you can make your web page something that people actually want to read.
And for your general entertainment, a segment of a list on “How to Write Good.”
- Avoid Alliteration. Always.
- Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
- Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
- Employ the vernacular.
- Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
- Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
- It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
- Contractions aren’t necessary.
- Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
- One should never generalize.