The “Great Wall of Text” and Other Web Writing Mistakes

Making content for the Web is not as easy a proposition as it first sounds. At least, not if you’re going to attract readers to it. This, I have unfortunately discovered since I began running this blog; for instance, my writing style may be conversational and fairly engaging, but it’s also a little verbose. (I suffer from “Wall-of-Text Syndrome” on a daily basis. LOL)

This is a Web writing mistake that can drive away visitors–but it’s not the only one we Web content creators can make. Read on, for the 5 most common writing mistakes on the Web, and how to fix them!

Web Writing Mistakes

  1. Paragraphs that are too long (more than 5 lines)
  2. Font size smaller than 12px
  3. Font color too similar to background color
  4. No pictures to help illustrate points
  5. Using 100 words when 10 will do

How Can We Fix These Mistakes?

Thankfully, Web content is very forgiving–all you need to do is hit the backspace key and rework your sentences. And believe me, your readers will thank you for improved readability and comprehension!

#1: Break Up Long Paragraphs

Preview how your Web content looks in your layout. Are any paragraphs more than 5 lines long when contained within your divs or tables? If so, you’ll need to reword and reformat to break those longer paragraphs into smaller sections. Just like dividing larger pieces of food into smaller bits, keeping your paragraphs small makes it easier for users to digest what you’re saying.

Think about it this way: would you rather read Example #1 or Example #2, below?

Example #1
Crooked Glasses is a multi-topic blog–sounds pretty weird, but I enjoy writing it. During the week, I cover web design and development on Mondays, social commentary and philosophy on Tuesdays, Biblical analysis and application on Wednesdays, gaming and game strategies on Thursdays, Internet surfing on Fridays, and any and all forms of creativity on Saturdays. (Occasionally, I have a wildcard post on Sunday, too!) This blog has been going since January 2011 and can be followed on Twitter; I’d love to hear back from y’all about subtopics you’d like to see covered. Also, comments are enabled on every post, so if you have opinions or ideas regarding any post, feel free to click “comment!”

Example #2
Crooked Glasses is a multi-topic blog–sounds pretty weird, but I enjoy writing it.

During the week, I cover web design and development on Mondays, social commentary and philosophy on Tuesdays, Biblical analysis and application on Wednesdays, gaming and game strategies on Thursdays, Internet surfing on Fridays, and any and all forms of creativity on Saturdays. (Occasionally, I have a wildcard post on Sunday, too!)

This blog has been going since January 2011 and can be followed on Twitter; I’d love to hear back from y’all about subtopics you’d like to see covered. Also, comments are enabled on every post, so if you have opinions or ideas regarding any post, feel free to click “comment!”

Which felt easier to read? If you’re like most Web users, you probably answered Example #2–when information is spaced out in understandable chunks, it helps our brains understand it better. Spacing out content, even if you don’t rewrite it, can help our users understand what we’re writing.

#2: Enlarge Font Size

I don’t know about you, but loads of tiny font crammed onto a page doesn’t make for happy reading for me. Small font sizes are all the rage for designers who don’t want to take the focus off their layouts, but if we want our users to be able to use our sites, we need to make our content as easily-read as possible.

I’ve found that the 12pt font size works well for body content (that’s what I’m using on this blog)–it’s not so big that it overwhelms the screen, but it’s not ant-size either. We don’t want to give our users squinting wrinkles, after all!

Look at this example of the same text formatted in 8pt and 12pt:

Both use the same text (an excerpt of the famous “Lorem Ipsum” text), and the same font color. Which would you prefer to read on a computer screen?

#3: High-Contrast Text and Background

Many designers, especially beginning designers, choose to have their font colors similar to their background colors…sometimes a little too similar. (I admit, I made the same mistake in my newbie days!) As a designer, you do want your colors to match well together. It’s just that the font color and the immediate background color (behind the font) should not be almost the same color.

An example, here:

This dark brown text seems to almost vanish into the similarly-hued background. If this represents important text on your website, it’s likely your user will either ignore it completely, or try to read it but give up on it.


Putting the font in a much paler color pops against the same brown background I used in the previous example. See how much easier it is to read?

#4: Add a Couple of Explanatory Pictures

As I’ve seen for myself throughout this blog post, adding a couple of pictures really does help illustrate your points. Not only do you have to write less to explain yourself, but it further breaks up any “walls of text” that might be on your page already.

If I hadn’t done the font color and size examples in pictures, for instance, then I would have had to resort to explaining myself in words, which might otherwise have been ignored or skimmed over. Pictures draw the user’s attention and help visually summarize what you’re writing.

#5: Edit Down to One Sentence, Then Expand

This is tough. Oh, wow, is this ever tough for me. I love words, so it’s hard for me to cut the excess away. But if we want our users to read what we’ve worked so hard to write, then it needs to be concise. After all, if the user doesn’t get what he or she wants from our site as quickly as possible, they’ll go somewhere else.

One of the tricks that has really helped me with this is to edit down a paragraph into one sentence, often called a “topic sentence” in grade school. Then, I can expand my paragraph out just a little bit with enough detail to make it smooth and flowing again.

With that in mind, let’s take the text I wrote from the first example, and edit it down just a bit.

Before Editing
Crooked Glasses is a multi-topic blog–sounds pretty weird, but I enjoy writing it.

During the week, I cover web design and development on Mondays, social commentary and philosophy on Tuesdays, Biblical analysis and application on Wednesdays, gaming and game strategies on Thursdays, Internet surfing on Fridays, and any and all forms of creativity on Saturdays. (Occasionally, I have a wildcard post on Sunday, too!)

This blog has been going since January 2011 and can be followed on Twitter; I’d love to hear back from y’all about subtopics you’d like to see covered. Also, comments are enabled on every post, so if you have opinions or ideas regarding any post, feel free to click “comment!”

One-Sentence Summary
This is a multi-topic blog, covering web design, opinions, Scripture, gaming, fun links, and creativity; come read, follow, and comment!

Expanding On the Summary, Making It Sing
Web design and development! Social and philosophical opinions! Even Biblical interpretations, gaming strategies, new websites, and all the arts! If any (or all) of these topics interest you, then come visit Crooked Glasses, a rare form of blog. If you like what you see, follow us on Twitter, and leave your thoughts in the comments!

Without losing any of the main points, I was able to summarize and energize the text into a much more attractive bundle. I believe this is easier to read (and more fun to read)–what do you think?

Summary

By taking a little time to revise and reformat your words, your Web content can be infinitely more engaging and convenient for your users. And the best thing? Writing can be revised forever, so if you don’t get the fix right the first time, there’s always the Backspace key. Like I said, your users will thank you for this!

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