WSJ Article Highlights One of the
Difficulties of Web Writing
By Anthony Carter
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/
Those of us who make our living writing online content face many difficult hurdles; things like
keyword density, creative use of subheadings and bullet points, and constructing text in a way
that naturally allows for several embedded links. However, perhaps the most difficult task of all
is creating text that is easily understood by readers without sounding simplistic and banal.
Indeed, spend a few hours reading articles on your favourite topics and you'll probably find the
word ‘banal’ to be very descriptive of the majority of web content.
The Wall Street Journal addressed this very issue in an article back in 2011 entitled ‘Writing
About Economics: How Much Jargon?’ While the emphasis of the piece was writing on
economics topics and the appropriate amount of industry-specific jargon one should use, the
principles set forth by the author apply all across the web-writing spectrum. Those of us who
put food on our tables by writing for the web would be wise to open our eyes and pay
The WSJ writer suggests considering three things when putting together an article. His first
suggestion is to avoid jargon whenever possible. This makes sense when you realize that the
point of web content is to attract people who are unfamiliar with the topic at hand. Those who
are already familiar are not likely to spend significant amounts of time reading what you have
written. Therefore, using words and phrases that most people understand will make your text
much more accessible to the general public.
The second suggestion is perhaps my favourite – at least as it relates to general Web writing.
The author states that when writing on economic topics one should always include the
intuition, logic, and maths behind the article's main idea. Adapting that to more general web
writing, I agree that online text should be written in a logical and orderly fashion. Too often
web writers are more concerned about keyword density and back links than they are with
presenting a comprehensive text. When we fail to include intuition and logic, we are offering
our clients text that presents a very unprofessional image.
Finally, the third suggestion states that if a fairly intelligent teenager cannot understand what
we’ve written then the author probably doesn't understand the topic himself. I couldn't agree
more. Furthermore, this suggestion combines the previous two along with a good command of
the English language (or whatever language you happen to be writing in). If we web writers
cannot clearly set forth our ideas in a way that the average reader can make sense of, we are
doing our clients a disservice. That's no way to run a business.
Perhaps one of the reasons many web writers put so little effort into their craft is the fact that
our names are often not attached to our material. Let's face it; web text is usually anonymous.
Moreover, with anonymity comes the ability to put forth a poor effort in the content we
produce. Yet if the Wall Street Journal is to be trusted, and I believe they are, web writers
should be cognizant of the audience their content is likely to reach. That means writing in a way
that is not only informational, but also presents the client in the best possible light by reaching
the target audience with useful and relevant content.
Article author Anthony Carter offers a range of copywriting services at http://cocp.co.uk and
proofreading and copy-editing services at http://www.carmanproofreading.co.uk.