The 10 Commandments of concise web writing

1. Write tight. Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs. Ditch the 12 dollar words, and prune the text down to one idea per paragraph, one thought per sentence and generally no more than three sentences per paragraph. Remember: less is more.

2. Treat headlines like gold. Headlines have the ability to either hook or deter the reader. Ideally they should define the page content as fully as possible with as few words as possible. And please, there is no need to be overly-clever or ambiguous with headlines.

3. Use bulleted lists. They are your friend. Web visitors love them and so should you. Web visitors don’t read, they scan, and lists help them scan efficiently.

4. Get to the point quickly. You have about one second to grab the visitors’ attention. Don’t lollygag: use the inverted pyramid format and frontload each paragraph with the conclusions first—then expand upon them.

5. Use an active voice by using the subject-verb-object format—putting the subject at the start of the sentence whenever possible (e.g., Tom bought an umbrella. Not, An umbrella was bought by Tom).

6. Use straightforward, simple language. Great, powerful writing is born from simplicity. Avoid jargon, excessive vocabulary, and bureaucratic or sales-y language.

7. Say what you need to say once and say it well. Eliminate redundancies. If you struggle to explain your point and resort to terms like “in other words” or “in short,” you aren’t saying it right. Regroup your thoughts and try again.

8. Stay on message. No one loves tangents more than writers, it’s true, but web writers must exclude indulging in interesting but unnecessary information. Resist, resist, resist.

9. Edit, edit, edit. Don’t become attached to your words. In fact, cut out as many of them as possible while keeping the functionality and meaning of the text intact. I know they are all special words to your heart—but you must learn to embrace minimalism and let go.

10. Don’t be afraid of punctuation. Especially periods—you know, in order to avoid scary too-many-clauses-run-on-sentence anarchy. Yikes!