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How To Edit Copy For The Web

How To Edit Copy For The Web

Editing copy for the web isn’t just a case of looking for spelling and punctuation errors. It requires much more than running a spelling and grammar check. You’ve got to look at the text as a whole, consider how you can simplify it and also make it more impactful.

How, and why, should editors, proofreaders and subs treat web copy differently to other mediums? 

For starters, writers and editors should be aware that people use and read most web content differently to print. The Government notes: ‘They do not necessarily read top to bottom or even from word to word.’ And the research-based Nielsen Norman Group claims users only read between 20-to-28% of a web page. 

Once you can get over the fact it’s nothing personal, and readers are usually skimming a page for specific information, it makes writing and editing web content so much easier. Save the fancy stuff for that first novel.

Oh, and did we mention the average reading age in the UK is only nine years old? All these reasons, and the tips below, prove you need an editor who understands how to make website copy as engaging as possible.

Know your audience

This applies for any writing or editing, but is essential for the web. Ask yourself:

  • Who you want to reach 
  • What you want to say to them
  • What you want the reader to do with your information.

 Always use language that speaks directly to your reader. 

Use active voice and eliminate passive 

Most web copy should be written with an active voice, because it makes the reader more likely to emotionally connect. 

So, the subject should be doing the action, rather than having the action done to them – e.g. ‘Emmie read the book’, not ‘The book was read by Emmie’. Active voice makes writing clear and natural – get rid of any passive.

The inverted pyramid approach

This method works just as well for the web as it does print journalism. The inverted pyramid refers to a structure placing the most important and broad  information – potentially the conclusion – first. The necessary details should become less and less as the page continues. This also ties in with the ‘F-shaped reading pattern theory’.

Short paragraphs

Writers often spend so much time getting the information down, they end up with overlong paragraphs. Editors should break these into smaller chunks of text to improve readability and help readers skim to what they’re looking for. 

Subheadings

If you can forgive the skimmers, you can also make it easier for them. Ask yourself:

  • What’s the main point of this section?
  • What should the reader learn from it?

Do that and you’ll find it easier to come up with a subheading for each section.

Lists

A good list also improves the user experience by breaking up content and making it easier to find information. Consider:

  • Bullet points
  • Numbered lists
  • Check boxes

Less is more

As long as you achieve the goals of the page, less is always more with editing web content. Always keep that in mind and don’t add information for the sake of a word count. Never lose sight of the fact your reader is probably in a rush, looking for content that speaks to them, and your content will stand out.

To get the best out of your copy and keep it short and sweet, hire a copy editor. They’ll ensure you say the most, with the least amount of words.

We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Really, we’re just scratching the surface. There’s so much that goes into perfecting web copy. We should know, we’re the experts! If you’d like to learn more or you need help editing your copy, please get in touch.