Writing for the Web: Bullet Points and Headings

Have you ever noticed the difference in writing styles when comparing Web content with newspapers, magazines, or other print periodicals? Where more traditional media tends to use a style of writing which incorporates long paragraphs, well thought-out lines of reasoning, and fairly advanced vocabulary, Web writing is much more likely to be styled with short sentences and paragraphs, more basic vocabulary, and more spoon-fed reasoning.

There’s a good reason for this – whether it’s good or bad remains to be seen – but nevertheless, the fact is that we live in a culture with a very short attention span. We are used to seeing the flashing images of the TV screen; our politics are based on short sound bites; we no longer have the ability to work in the kitchen long enough to cook a full meal from scratch; and on it goes. This short attention span means that web writers must cater their content for maximum effect.

Bullet Points

One of the most effective tools in great Web writing is to employ bullet points. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, bullet points are those short, single lines of text that begin with some sort of symbol, usually a dot. Bullet points tend to be grouped in lists of six or fewer and are often used as a way of summarizing ideas. Using this writing tool allows the author to accomplish several things including:

  • grabbing the reader’s attention visually
  • quickly stating important information
  • summarizing important points and thoughts
  • preparing readers for the next section of text

Headings and Sub Headings

One of the keys to enticing your readers to actually delve into your article is making them comfortable in believing it is not a long and difficult read. We

Headings and Subheadngs

Writing by Coe

accomplish this by using headings and subheadings. The use of these two things not only breaks up the text visually, it also provides smaller chunks of information so that the reader is not overwhelmed by one successive paragraph after another.

Your headings and subheadings should be treated similar to your article title, in that they are to be brief and to the point. For consistency, follow the standard capitalization rules used for titling in all your headings and subheadings. Finally, in a standard 500 word article you should have no more than two or three. Too many headings can be counterproductive because they make your article too choppy and hard to follow.