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Readable (and Even Enjoyable) Content

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You know you have a great business. Your customers tell you so all the time. Now you want a worldwide audience to know what you do, and how well you do it. All it takes is a set of meaningful text pages. Simple, right? Hardly.

Whether you have no idea what to write, or too many ideas to incorporate, staring at a blank page can be intimidating. Before you worry about what to write, familiarize yourself with some guidelines for how to write:

1. Choose a web-appropriate font: You finally have the chance to dump that boring Times New Roman! Don't get too carried away, though. Studies show that fonts where letters don't have dangling tips or stylized edges are easiest on the eyes. Verdana is commonly used on many different websites.

2. Get organized: By now you should have some idea of what pages will be included on your website. Ask yourself why each of these pages is necessary. Your answer will be the main idea for each one. You can then make a few sub-notes that you would like to include. When you have an outlined sketch, check to make sure that there is a logical flow to it all.

3. Consider the visual layout: Leave blank lines between paragraphs to physically depict transition. This also encourages visitors to return because they can find specific information quickly, without sifting through miles of text.

4. Grammar matters, to a degree: Ruthlessly police spelling errors, typos, misuse, and run-on, fragmented, or awkward sentences. Relax the reins when it comes to style. Using 1 space or 2 after a period does not matter, and no one will be counting to make sure each paragraph has 4 sentences.

5. Keep it personal, but professional: Your website content, particularly your home page, is a perfect place to make a strong first impression, and that impression should be that you are over 14. Let your creativity shine, and use humor where appropriate, but save cutesy or clever for MySpace or Facebook. A good strategy is to embrace the key feature that sets your business apart from the competition, and let that be your 'personality'.

6. Sneak in some free marketing: Websites are constantly 'crawled' by search engines to see what information they contain that can be passed along to internet searchers. By working relevant key words and phrases into your writing, you can increase your chances of getting noticed. Just be careful not to overdo capitalization, exclamation points, or bold type. You don't want to run the risk of sounding like a Matthew Lesko commercial gone wild.

7. Slash mercilessly: Okay, maybe not quite that intensely, but real editing means that items will be left on the cutting room floor. Even if you have unlimited space, your readers do not have unlimited patience. Many content writers make the mistake of redundancy. To avoid this, find the best spot for a segment and place it there, and only there.

8. Do unto others...: Many content writers miss the most obvious guideline-- write content that you would read. The only way to do this is to honestly reflect after writing, using the 'who cares?' test. If you have a lot of bonus details about your staff, your facilities, or projects you completed thirty years ago, will your audience truly care? If not, delete it from your text, (but save it for your mom to read).

The best way to prepare for excellent website writing is to take a tour of the websites that you love and hate to browse. Ask yourself what makes them enjoyable or annoying, and take careful notes. Follow your own advice, and you will be off to a successful start.

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