Top 10 Crimes of Online Writing

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Top 10 Crimes of Online Writing

 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details


Are you blog posts not getting the attention they deserve?
Check out these points to improve your writing and reduce that bounce rate

1. Too Clever/Too Boring/Too Complex Title

  • The title of an online post needs to be clear and succinct – no clever tabloid puns or vagueness here please!
  • Avoid figures, but use place names, people etc. they will catch attention.
  • The difference between: “Birmingham man falls into pub-cellar after night out” and “Down the Hatch”
  • Avoid long titles, they’ll drop off the end of tweets if people share your story. Rethink your focus if you are struggling to write a clear title.

2. Images to big/boring/stock photos

Images are a useful way to not only break up a story but also to improve traffic. Have you ever seen a story posted onto Facebook? Often the article IMAGE is the first thing you will see. Remember that!
  • Size: Don’t automatically use the original size. Unless the image is VITAL to the article (i.e. if it is illustrating a point) keep it small, and wrap the text around the image to avoid white space.
  • Location: Does that image REALLY have to be at the top on the left hand side? Would it work better further down? Consider using it to break up a block of text, or illustrate a particular point in the article.
  • Multiple Pictures: Instead of ONE picture, how about several? How about an embedded Flickr slideshow? A gallery?
  • Diagrams: Not all images have to be photographs. Is the story complex – would it benefit from a diagram? How about drawing your own with an art package (even Paint can work for simple diagrams), then save it and embed. (If it’s a personal blog, how about taking a photograph of your own doodles, flow charts, schedules etc and posting those up?)

3. Epic Paragraphs

It’s a common mistake of print journalists – they simply paste their copy online, add an image and have done with.

The eye simply cannot cope with the same about of text on a screen. Also, image if someone is reading the article on a mobile phone.

Keep paragraphs short

One idea, one paragraph.

People will scan the article – they will glance at paragraphs, and move on if it does not interest them. Don’t bury the facts in a paragraph they may not read.

4. No Header / Subheader

If the article is long, breaking it up into sections will help the reader find what that want quickly.
See how this article is divided into sections? Did it help you find what you wanted? Good.

5. No links / links not working

Links are vital – and useful.
  • they give the reader a chance to find out more about a story
  • they give your story credibility
  • the linked person will know you’ve linked to them – creating interest and a possible link back
  • you can keep your article short by linking to a resource elsewhere (read more here, see full list here etc.)

Never post a full link into your article – it looks messy and amateurish. Instead create a LINK within the article using relevant words (more here, for example).

See below (Spreading the Word – for details of creating short links)

6. No Lists

What would you prefer to read?
The company has created websites for Exfan, Doldoran. The Burmese Artichoke Foundation, Sandcastle Equities, Danders, Phirman Enterprises and Zhulom Corporation
The company has created websites for:
  • Exfan
  • Doldoran
  • The Burmese Artichoke Foundation
  • Sandcastle Equities
  • Danders
  • Phirman Enterprises
  • Zhulom Corporation

And don’t forget to use those bullet point as LINKS to the relevant page.

7. Fact and Figures

Above I mentioned how diagrams were a useful addition to an article to explain a point. If your story is very NUMBER heavy, how about using a table or a chart to explain the figures?
For WordPress, I have discovered that creating the table in Word, then “pasting from Word” places the table into the post with no strange formatting.
Dave 3 8 6
Archie 5 6 1
Charles 3 4 2
Also think about a chart – input the data into a spreadsheet program (ie Excel) create a chart, copy it, paste into Paint and add as an image to your article.

8. Tagging and Categories

These are crucial. They allow people to navigate your site, and flag up what the article is about.
If your articles have a lot of links and tag words, consider using Zemanta (no students, we can’t have this on the uni computers). It finds possible links and tags and allows you to add them automatically. By no means does this pick every link, but saves a lot of time with the obvious ones.
Add tag words that a relevant only – don’t add everything – you don’t want to be using tag words to get people to your article under false pretenses.

9. Spread the Word

If you don’t tell anyone about your article, no-one, apart from your mum, will read it.

Here are some ways of spreading the word:

  • Post the link on Twitter but ALWAYS use a short link (I use – it shortens the link and allows you to track the number of clicks – great/terrible for the ego!)
  • Post it on Facebook – (useful tip: if you use Hootsuite as a Twitter /Facebook client you can CHOOSE which image will appear next to the link)
  • Are there forums on this subject? Post it on there. – but be respectful of forum policy – forums are notoriously feisty when it it comes to spamming.
  • Send it to the contacts, sources and interviewees that you used – they will like to see it and may post it on their websites. Again, send them a short link so you can keep track of the traffic.
  • Get an email sig that allows you to promote your blog (I use Wisestamp, it adds links to my social networks AND an RSS feed of my blog).

10. Feel free to suggest a Number 10, below …


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details


About Author

Caroline Beavon

A communication professional with 12 years journalism experience and a genuine passion for new technologies. An experienced blogger and social media user


Stephen Monday

May 31, 2012at 3:28 pm

Hi Caroline,

You are right about having shorter content for the mobile users. (This is where using twitter a lot helps) because if you can make a clear interesting point using less that 141 letters – then you are concise.

With so many people using mobile Web devices; (100 million) to “cash in” on this new market – we will have to be succinct, and get to our point quickly. I did some research that proved that most people who are looking for products/services – go to the Web first.

The study showed that as many as 90% of these searchers were using mobile devices. Wow. More power to the 3G and 4G enabled.

Good post.

How long should online content be?

May 16, 2012at 12:31 pm

[…] Mobile – with the increase in mobile browsing, we cannot ignore the necessity for even shorter content. They are prepared to scroll, but not endlessly. How many users visit your site from mobile devices? Is it worth tailoring content for them? Do you have anything else you would consider, when writing online? Further Reading: You might like my article on > Top 10 Crimes of Online Writing […]

Julie Toft

March 6, 2011at 11:40 am

10. linking instead of explaining. It annoys me, if the writer doesn’t bother to explain or clarify difficult parts/concepts but links to a wikipedia page instead. That’s just laziness. All the info you need to understand the text should be in the text. I think.

Great post, by the way.

Chie Elliott

March 5, 2011at 10:03 pm

Great post, Caroline, with good points we all need to be reminded of from time to time (it’s so easy to get carried away or become too lazy…), whether we are pros or beginners. PS: I didn’t know about Zemanta — top tip, thanks!

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March 5, 2011at 8:46 am

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Andy Mabbett

March 4, 2011at 4:20 pm

10. Expecting your readers to do the work for you. 😉

(Actually, that’s quite a good technique for encouraging debate)

Joseph Stashko

March 4, 2011at 3:36 pm

Somewhat in breach of point 6 here 😉

Good post, I’d really agree with the paragraph thing, readability is so much improved by breaking up text in 3 or 4 line chunks.

Pete Ashton

March 4, 2011at 3:29 pm

10. Ignore the rules. Sometimes you just gotta break them.

"This is the best course I have been to in terms of keeping everyone engaged. I found the examples of other data visualisation to be very interesting as I had never seen them before and know now to avoid certain styles! There were also different data visualisers whose works were explored - it all opened up a new way to look at the data and tell the story; a philosophy I believe Caroline delivers very well. She kept things simple as they should be (not patronising mind)" Infographics training course attendee, Warwickshire County Council