The Economy of Words

How’s this for a safe bet. You will read at least one news article from your mobile device today.

Yep, according to Pew Research Center’s annual State of the News Media report, released this week, more visitors to top internet sites are getting their news from mobile devices, rather than desktop computers. (Pew also found that nearly half of all Web users learn about politics and government from Facebook.)

That information itself might not surprise you, but as the divide between mobile and desktop continues to grow, what could it mean for the content you’re creating on behalf of your own organization?

If you’re looking to impart a message to online readers, you’ve got to maximize the economy of words. The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo illustrates this concept in a famously titled Slate piece, “You Won’t Finish this Article: Why people online don’t read to the end.” As he observes, “We live in the age of skimming.”

What all that skimming means is that your web content creators need to choose words that work hard and have purpose. So here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Write with brevity: Don’t say in ten words what you can say more strongly with five.
  • Aim for active voice vs. passive: Passive voice has its place, but it can also weaken the precision of your writing. Favor active voice instead.
  • Go for impact: Pack as much meaning as you can into your first few lines of text. It can help ensure your reader sticks around for the end.

The more efficient and impactful your web content, the more likely you are to hook your readers from the start. That can help them learn more about your work and mission, drive them to act, and get them to come back and do it all again.

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