How to Write for the Web If You Were Born Before 1965

by Jennifer Beever


With the proliferation of the new “content marketing,” writing skills for online marketing are more important than ever. And, if you learned to write before or in the early days of personal computers, you may have some habits that no longer work for today’s online marketing world.

Recently I’ve been working with clients to generate content in the form of blog posts and webpages for their websites. I noticed that for some who were active with computers, software development and the early days of social media would submit documents using all caps, underlined phrases and sentences, and even highlighting words with different colored fonts to emphasize certain points.

I puzzled over this for just a little bit, before I realized that these are the computer and online pioneers. These folks were generating content and messages for others on typewriters and computers before many consumers who use the Internet today were even born. These pioneers were programming in little flashing emoticons and special fonts onto their green screen displays to liven things up. This was cool then, and it’s interesting that emoticons are now embedded in text messaging on phones and in social media.

But there are some things that are no longer necessary and are actually a turnoff for today’s readers (and editors). Here is a list to help content writers who were born before 1965 write better content for online use.

1. There is no need to type two character spaces between sentences.

Those of us who typed our term papers and reports in high school and college were trained to hit the space key twice before the next sentence.  Online that looks awkward; there’s too much room between sentences.  And, if you’re limited on character space as happens with LinkedIn Company Page updates (600 characters) and with Twitter (140 characters), every space counts!

2. ALL CAPS is considered screaming online and in email.

Don’t use all caps to emphasize a point. It’s tempting, but when email was growing in popularity, an etiquette emerged. This became one of the rules. Use bold or italics instead of all caps for emphasis.

3. Underlining words in online content can be confusing. Here’s why.

Today underlined text on a webpage usually indicates that the reader can click on the text and go to a link. So, if you underline your text in online content, the reader can get confused and frustrated when it doesn’t link to anything. Use italics or bold instead. I recommend using italics for one word that you want to emphasize or as the protocol for book and other titles. Use bold for entire sentences or phrases that you want to stand out.

4. Using different font colors can make your text difficult to read, and it’s confusing.

Similar to underlining, a different font color can indicate that the words in the second color are a hyperlink to another page. It’s standard to have one color for normal text (usually black or gray) and a second for hyperlinks (usually blue). Mixing in more colors is a bad design choice. In addition, some colors are hard to read. Older people have a hard time reading red. Yellow is very hard to see on screen and on slide presentations.

These are small changes that make a big difference for editors when you submit new content and to readers when the content is posted. To those of you who have weathered decades in business and are writing content for the web, congratulations! And, please don’t be offended that I’ve singled out people of a certain age. I’m a dinosaur like you. I had to retrain myself to not hit two spaces between every sentence when I typed for online use several years ago! It wasn’t easy!

If you want to get found online through content marketing and social media, contact New Incite today. We provide consulting and outsource marketing services to increase your marketing results.

Photo on Flickr by Kevin Dooley. Some Rights Reserved.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Harrison July 23, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I learned this the hard way. Where were you about five years ago?

Jennifer Beever July 24, 2014 at 10:41 am

Thanks for the comment Barbara – I learned the hard way, too.

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