Bad Web ‘righting’
Neil Bromage has run his own small business and is a freelance business writer working on a range of newspapers including The Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Financial Mail on Sunday. This book is based on a wide range of columns and Q&As written and answered by Neil for Business Link over a number of years. He is based near Preston, Lancs.
Bad writing is the rule rather than the exception on the web. One reason for this is simply that good writing is hard to do, but another is that many of the people who have been involved with the web from the beginning have been slow to realise that writing is a very big part of the online experience.
If you read much on the web, you probably encounter such simple ‘righting’ errors all the time. The ‘righting’ for ‘writing’ mistake is one your word processor’s spell-checking function can’t recognise (’righting’, of course, is a perfectly good word, as in ‘righting a wrong’). Chances are that your grammar checker, if you use one, won’t catch it either.
You’ll also encounter a lot of content that’s poorly organised, poorly reasoned, poorly presented, or just plain poorly written. Since writing wasn’t originally perceived as a central activity in creating a website, many companies and organisations that put out large quantities of content – organisations that are, in effect, publishers – have never bothered to create the kind of editorial infrastructure that a publisher must have.
Learning to write is like learning most other things – you learn by doing, and so you learn to write by actually writing. Writing for the web requires the same expertise as any other writing, only more so. Readers on the web, for instance, apparently have a much shorter concentration span and information has to be presented in a much punchier style, using shorter sentences, paragraphs and more bullet-pointed text than normal.
If you want to write and produce your own website content it’s worth going along to a writing course where you can learn to brush up your skills.
The number of websites that are badly written and badly edited remains vast, but if you look at the successful, high-volume websites, you see professional editing. The headlines are snappy and the writing is tight, for instance, at news sites such as www.cnet.com and www.cnn.com.