Writing for the Web: Write for Scanning

Jennifer Applin

By Jennifer Applin


You may not even realize it, but whenever you read anything online you are typically performing a quick initial scan of the material. You are doing this with one hand on the mouse just waiting to click to a different location if what you’ve scanned doesn’t meet your needs. Here are a few tips to make sure the online content you write succeeds in capturing the reader’s attention:

Make good use of headlines.
This is where the most critical information jumps out at the reader. They can tell by the headline whether or not the paragraph details are worth investing their time. Without a headline they may not even bother.

Write tight.
Readers are looking for online content that meets all of their reading needs, but does so quickly. Writing for the web is not like writing research papers in school where you include extra words to make it longer. Get your point across quickly and keep it short and sweet.

Front-load the most important content.
Again, keeping the reader’s attention is critical here. If the piece you are writing is rather lengthy be sure to keep the most important information towards the beginning. If you save your real nuggets of information for the end, you may lose the reader’s interest before they are read.

Business-boosting tip
To make sure I’m getting compensated fairly for my work, I did a little research to determine an average hourly rate for freelance writers. Although most of my assignments are paid per article or per word, I total the time it will take me (including querying, researching, interviewing, etc) and divide the amount I’ll be paid by the total number of hours invested into that specific assignment.

Then it’s just a matter of evaluating how this amount measures up to my target hourly rate. This method is also helpful when considering various types of work, including blogging and editing. By doing this I may accept assignments that pay $0.75 per word, as well as those that pay $2 per word. It all comes down to the bottom line, which should be a competitive hourly rate.


Jennifer Applin is a freelance writer living in Ohio with her husband and four young children. Aside from writing for many regional publications, she is regular contributor to eLearners.com and Projectworkingmom.com. She spends her days cooking, cleaning and caring for little ones; and her nights writing about pregnancy, parenting and the quest for peace (as in peace and quiet). You can also find her at Managing the MotherLoad.

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