When was the last time you read your high school English reports?
Nobody reads those things other than teachers and for good reason: They’re difficult to read.
There are proper writing rules that just don’t work in the real world. When you want an audience to read your work, especially online, you need to break a few proper writing rules.
Here is a list of rules that are meant to be broken when you write online content.
Just don’t tell Miss Smith about it.
1. Paragraphs Need 3-4 Sentences Each
Sometimes your paragraph only needs one word.
Short is good.
2. Don’t Use Contractions
There’s nothing wrong with contractions.
3. Don’t Begin Sentences With “Because”, “And”, etc.
It’s not always appropriate, but you can break this rule. If it feels right then go with it.
4. Do Not Use “I” Or “You”
I would say that you always want to break this rule when writing for an actual reader. They want to feel like your content is for them. Speak to them like you’re writing for one person.
5. Use Two Spaces After Sentences
I’m not sure if this is taught anymore. My generation may have been at the tail end of it. Once space after sentences.
6. Don’t Use Fragments
It’s a good rule most of the time, but sometimes you can get away with fragments. As long as your reader can understand you things will be fine.
7. Don’t Write Like This Is A Text Message
Language is going this way at least in part. Keep it short. Use shorthand language. Keep it simple. Get your point across. That’s the goal after all.
8. Your Thesis Statement Should Be The Final Sentence In The Introduction
You can mention the point in the intro, but it doesn’t have to be the final sentence. Get readers excited. Or make them laugh before they move into the body of your text.
9. Do Not Use Extra Words Like “Well” Or “Anyway”
We use these in regular conversation. They’re not always appropriate and we often catch ourselves using filler words too often. But it’s fine to use them in your writing on occasion. It makes your content more approachable.
10. Write Out Numbers
Definitely avoid this point. You can do it sometimes when you feel it makes sense, but people seem to like numbers so go ahead and type the actual number even if it’s small.
11. Be Professional, Diplomatic And Respectful
Do this and you’ll never get your article shared or engaged with. Be confident in what you write. Take sides. If you think someone is wrong then say it (but make sure you’re ready for an argument).
Respect is good. Don’t go around making people upset, but some arguing is healthy now and then and it get people talking about you.
12. Recap The Entire Article In The Conclusion
You can do this a little bit, but you don’t want to get too repetitive. In the conclusion you’re looking to get the reader to take an action. Lead them in the direction you want.
13. Use Full Names Then Last Names
It’s courteous to use someone’s full name the first time you mention them in an online article. But then you can use their first name the rest of the way in the article. It makes it more personal.
14. No Abbreviation
Use abbreviation. In most cases you want to use TV instead of television when you’re talking online. And most people know what BTW means. No need to type it out.
15. No Slang
Definitely use slang in your online writing. Don’t do it to the point that nobody knows what you’re saying, but use it because that’s how people actually talk and converse with one another.
16. Avoid Short Sentences
This is possibly one of the worst suggestions and teachers probably didn’t mean it the way it comes off. Short sentences are gold online.
Short sentences make content seem fast and actionable.
17. No Profanity
I’m not a huge fan of profanity myself, but some of my favorite writers use it very well. It can add a little extra emotion. And people relate to emotion. That brings them deeper into your ongoing story.
We need to break these rules.
Damn it, guys! It’s time to write in a way that connects with people!
I couldn’t figure out the right way to say this.
Always cite your sources. Online you do that with links.
However, don’t over-rely on sources for posts. You want to use your own thoughts and emotion.
19. Don’t Use Cliches
For the most part you want to avoid cliches. But sometimes they’re appropriate. When you use one that helps your reader understand what you’re talking about you’re using it effectively.
20. Avoid Adverbs
In general, yes. You probably don’t want to overload on the adverbs. But sometimes an adverb looks nice in your sentence. Sometimes they describe a situation really well like how this post will end quietly.
There are many rules worth following from high school and proper writing courses. Action words get people to take action on your writing. That means more engagement and repeat visitors.General grammar is good. Some people get bothered when they read “their” instead of “they’re”. You can overcome it, but make sure you address the basics.
The big point here is that you should be more concerned with actionable content that your reader finds educational or entertaining. Let them get something out of your work instead of reading it and forgetting right away. That’s the secret to online writing success.
Image: Richard Phillip Rücker