Writing for the Web

Hey Look!  You Read This!

This article is all about learning how to stylize and smith your web content for online readers.

Did you notice how you automatically read that first header (Hey Look! You Read This!)?  Most online readers are, for lack of a better metaphor, a lot like people with attention disorders.

The web is like a massive wad of stimuli, and readers will not take the time to dig into something when there are a dozen other shiny things to look at.  Most online probably will not read your article line-by-line, and so you need to put your biggest take-home messages in large, bold “headers.”  So, your first step to creating readable online content is to create the header outline.

STEP ONE: Create an Outline of Headers

Let’s do a case example, since therapists love those.

I want to write an article on Self-Care.  First, I ask myself what are the key components of self-care.  Physical fitness, sleep hygiene, social interaction, alone time, therapy, and healthy eating habits might be the top of the list.

Although those are important pieces of the puzzle, your article has two purposes:

#1 – Educate others about your topic

#2 – Attract people to your practice

As your content will be loaded with educational goodies, your style should be more like building an argument for #2.

For my Self-Care article, I would create a header outline that looked like this:

  • What is Self-Care?
  • Why does it matter?
  • How do I practice Self-Care?
    • Fitness
    • Sleep hygiene
    • Alone time
    • Social time
    • Diet
    • Therapy
  • How else can I practice Self-Care? (Answer: come to your clinic for therapy)
  • Want to learn more? Check out the rest of our awesome website!

Do you see how the argument builds to talk about how therapy is a way to practice self-care?  After you describe the benefits of therapy, you can offer yourself as a resource for the client.

STEP TWO: Where’s the Beef?

Now that you have the outline, you can add the meat of your content in with relative ease.  I tend to think of it as a discussion between myself and the reader.  What questions might she/he ask while reading my article?

The key to step one is to avoid “filtering.”  Let the words flow from your fingertips, don’t worry about editing yet.  Stopping to think will stifle new ideas from flowing naturally.  Although the end result often looks disastrous, you will make a lot more progress this way.

Here is what it looks like when I add content without filtering (don’t judge me):

What is Self-Care?

Self-care can be an umbrella term for how we take care of ourselves physically, socially, and psychologically.

Physical self-care includes everything from good sleep hygiene to eating healthy meals.  Social self-care involves how connected we are with friends, loved ones, and other human beings.  Blah blah blah more stuff about self-care and what it is, I can add more content here later.

Many people tend to neglect one or more of these areas, and the results are disastrous – often resulting in chronic illness.  For example, if I forget to tend to my physical self by neglecting to exercise, sleep, or eat well, I may get sick and need to miss work or school.  Or, perhaps if I neglect my social self by staying home, avoiding social events, or refusing to answer the phone when mom calls me, I will grow more isolated from the rest of the world.

In general, self-care is about finding the equilibrium in work, play, and rest.

I know a lot about self-care, and so writing content about it is relatively easy.  That chunk you see above took me about 60 seconds to write because I didn’t filter.

True, there are plenty of grammatical errors, poor word choices, and the thought flow is not that smooth.  However, we can go back through and edit that with relative ease.

STEP THREE: Read it and Edit

Once you have added meat to the header outline without filtering, go back to the beginning and read the article line-by-line.  You are a therapist, so you know how to edit written material.

However, you may not know how to edit for the online public.

For example, someone may look at a well-written article on self-care and say “what in the name of Thor is  sleep hygiene?”

In general, you want to write content as if you were explaining it to someone in middle school.  Do not be condescending (Example – Sleep hygiene means you take sleepy time when you need to), but try to avoid lingo that might confuse the reader (Example – Self-care means that you find time to rest).

Granted, they are reading it online and could very well Google words they do not know.  However, as therapists we must be skilled translators of our education to the public.

STEP FOUR: Format

Spacing is essential for web content.

Notice how you probably payed more attention to the line above because it was drifting all alone.  Readers notice these because we are conditioned to do so.  Most authors will only put a short sentence by itself for dramatic effect, and so you can use this to your advantage.  To double the dramatic effect, use bold one-liners.

Isn’t that awesome?

A good rule of thumb it to look at your article and pay as little attention as possible.  Try reading it as if you were quickly researching something for a client who’s appointment starts in 2 minutes.  If you find yourself glazing over certain paragraphs, break it apart into smaller chunks.

Want to learn more?

Check out some of my example articles!

Want more support?

Contact me today to get help creating content for your website.

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