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How to Structure Sentences and Paragraphs for Online Writing

Online readers scan for interesting content.  They don’t want to plow through a lot of words or figure out the meaning of long sentences.

Keep sentences short and simple on your business website.  You’ll engage readers and better convey your message.

Keep sentences short and about one main point.

Avoid long compound sentences with online writing.  Instead, create two sentences.

Before:

More than 30 people got sick after eating undercooked chicken at the local diner, while the mayor promised an overhaul of restaurant safety inspections.

After:

More than 30 people got sick after eating undercooked chicken at the local diner. The mayor promised an overhaul of restaurant safety inspections.

Front-load important information.

Put the most important idea at the beginning of sentences, where scanning readers are more likely to see it.

Before:

Riding his light-weight racing bike, Scott completed the course in record time.

After:

Scott completed the course in record time riding his light-weight racing bike.

Favor the subject-verb-object construction to front-load your sentences.

Use active verbs.

Strong, active verbs have more impact and shorten sentence length.

Before:

The delicious pasta was cooked by Jane.

After:

Jane created the delicious pasta.

This also helps tighten sentences by keeping the subject and verb close:

Before:

The delicious pasta, with a unique blend of herbs, was cooked by Jane.

After:

Jane cooked the delicious pasta with a unique blend of herbs.

Use the imperative verb form.

On a business lead-generation website, tell visitors what to do.  Lace content with calls-to-action.

Achieve this by using the imperative verb form.

Before:

You can save a lot of money if you choose to use our service.

After:

Use our services and save money.

Avoid you can or you might constructions that weaken sentences.

Be direct.  You’ll strengthen your message.

Like all online writing, paragraphs should be concise and easy to scan.

People often have to adjust how they paragraph their online writing.

Back in the days of English terms papers, you wrote long paragraphs, probably trying to get to the required word count.  Ideas would ramble on in long blocks of unbroken text.  Somehow, it looked more complete.

This paragraph structure doesn’t work online.

Long blocks of text overwhelm eyes online.  The length is daunting, and it’s difficult to scan-read.

So forget your high school English lessons.  When writing for online consumption, keep paragraphs short.  2-3 sentences is usually enough.

A Change In Writing Style

Shortening sentences and paragraphs will have an effect on your writing style.  Luckily, it’s usually an improvement.

Short paragraphs force you to break your writing up into a series of tight topics.  A 2-3 sentence paragraph can only be about one idea.

Writing this way will help you cut out deadwood and prevent rambling.  Your writing will take on a crisp, easy to read flow.

You may have some trouble breaking away from long paragraphs at first.  Just remember that every time you start on anything that is even a slight idea variation, start a new paragraph.

Here are some guidelines to remember:

  • Build each paragraph on one, crisp topic.
  • Front-load the main point.  Whatever the essential idea is – even if it’s a conclusion – put it first.  You have to hook scan-readers at the beginning or they won’t read further.
  • Err on the side of making sentences and paragraphs too short rather than too long.

If you think back, you might recall that writing those long, structured paragraphs – built with run-on sentences – was a real bore.

Shorten up paragraphs and inject some energy into your idea development.  Online readers will get more out of your writing and you’ll discover you like writing this way better!

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