The Importance of Good Web Writing

The Importance of Good Web Writing

The Web has contributed to an evolution of our written and spoken language, adding to the language and its flexibility. Is it Web site, Website, Web-site, web-site, web site, or website? Some grammar wonks would say Web should be capitalized because it is the shortened form of the proper noun “World Wide Web”; others would say that all variations are correct as long as the use is consistent.  This is the flexibility of our changing language.

The downside, it seems, is that Web writing is sometimes rife with typos and spelling errors, poor grammar, and confusing usage and sentence structure. Such poor quality online writing is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

  • Blogging and social websites—where writing is more extemporaneous and conversational—have influenced online writing style.
  • Businesses are loathe to pay Web content writers when they can use existing employees.
  • An employee whose actual job is not writing doesn’t usually have time to attend to writing quality. Online writing is often not professionally edited.
  • Online writing is perceived as less stringent, and more informal than writing for print.

In the old days of print publishing there were writers and there were editors. A writer didn’t edit and the editor didn’t write. In today’s print world, particularly newspapers and magazines, editing jobs are being cut or outsourced to save money so that bricks-and-mortar publishers can compete with their online counterparts.

Outsourcing web writing

If you search Google for “cheap blog writing,” “cheap article writing,” or “cheap SEO content writing,” you may notice many off-shore companies, particularly in India and the Philippines, appearing in search results. In countries where English is commonly the second language of educated people there is a thriving, inexpensive online writing industry. Outsourcing writing to these non-native English writers is a holdover from recent years when publishing articles and blog posts (containing links to your website) at high volume meant good search ranking, and businesses using such services often do not review the writing. If they did, they’d be astounded by the poor quality. Since Google’s infamous Panda and Penguin updates, this lack of quality may actually hurt your website’s ranking and, more importantly, will likely hurt your online presence or reputation. Off-shore writers and the people who purchase their services care more about the possible short-term Google ranking gains than about the writing quality or the impression it leaves of the site’s overall professionalism. In the following example of outsourced writing, you can see the problems inherent in hiring non-native English writers:

The public is scared of the high and expensive monthly premiums that they have to pay for once they have finally availed an LTC insurance plan of their own. But unknown to them, there are in fact some ways wherein they can still get affordable LTC premiums without stressing their wallet. an example of writing by an offshore writer.

What does the quality of this writing say about the company it is promoting? There is a place for these content writers and bloggers, but has online writing suffered because of lower standards, informality and inattention to grammar, structure, detail, and consistency? Although there is a place for informal writing style on the Web, there is also a place for formal, structured, grammatically correct writing style. Attention to the basics of writing and grammar in Web content writing leaves a positive impression about your company or project.

Web writing quality and search engine ranking

If you are publishing writing online, whether on your own website or blog, social media sites, doc sharing and PDF sharing websites, the quality of the writing is more important than you may think. High-quality writing is more likely to be shared than low-quality writing. If your writing is good people will share it, link to it, quote from it and cite it, and talk about it online.

Google has given the social Web a lot of weight in its search ranking algorithm. The rates of content sharing and amount of social chatter depend on perceived quality at the source. In February 2011, Google introduced an update to its ranking algorithm. Though the Panda algorithm primarily targeted content-farms—websites with scraped or spun content existing solely to manipulate ranking—about 12% of websites in the U.S. were affected. Many of these sites were legitimate businesses using bad online SEO writing and publishing practices including scraped content, spun content (software generated version of a seed article), plagiarized or partially plagiarized articles and just plain bad writing.

Online writing resources

Though I’m a Web content and blog writer, and not a professional editor, I try to use rules, frequently check spelling, use online grammar resources and style guides, review my writing, and care about the impression I’m making. One test I use is a question I ask myself: “If this writing were in printed form for a large audience would I publish it?” There are many online resources for writing and grammar. Here are a few that I use:

  • Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
    The OWL is an excellent online writing resources. You’ll find guides on writing, grammar and mechanics, and style guides.
  • Grammar Handbook
    From University of Illinois Center for Writing Studies The handbook teaches and provides examples of basic grammatical rules, parts of speech, sentence structure, and comment usage problems.
  • GrammarGirl
    Mignon Fogarty provides tips and tricks that help writers avoid common mistakes in writing.
  • Style Guides
    There are many style guides that help answer questions we have about grammar, punctuation, and writing style. Adopting and applying a style guide will increase the quality and consistency of your content. Writers and editors do not memorize all of the rules; they use resources like style guides and dictionaries. As a Canadian, I’ve adopted The Canadian Style published by Public Works of Canada.
  • Editors’ Association of Canada
    Hire an editor member of Canada’s largest professional editing association.
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