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Discovery & User Experience

Writing for the Web: Tip o’the Week

I recently stumbled across a pretty good conference presentation about writing Web content, given by writer/information architect Steph Hay last year in Dusseldorf. (Isn’t technology great? There’s no way I could have attended a conference in Dusseldorf, but I can watch the video!) I thought this might be of interest to folks who attended my “Writing for the Web” presentation at the Libraries’ In-House Institute, or those who thought about it but chose another presentation instead.

In the presentation, Hay notes that the three elements of compelling web content are focus, credibility, and consistency. She also says that in order to fulfill these goals, content should be meaningful, helpful, and results-oriented (there is a “call to action” involved and the user knows what will happen if they take the suggested action). Those are all good points, and she elaborates on them somewhat in her presentation – but the tip that really stood out for me was this one:

Rewrite anything that sounds ridiculous when read out loud.

Now, as a poet I’ve done this for years – when revising a poem I always, always read it out loud to myself (and yes, my cats think I am a nut who walks around the house muttering to herself all the time). But I will admit that I never actually thought about doing this for web content, and it’s a rather brilliant idea. Not only will it help you to identify tone that isn’t quite right – too wordy, too stuffy, too flip – but it will also help you to typos.

Wait. I just read that out loud. It will also help you to IDENTIFY typos. Yeah. See? It works!

So give it a try, and let me know what you think…

You can view Steph Hay’s full 34-minute presentation here (it’s pretty engaging), or go to


  • Thanks, Anne, for the great post and the link to Steph Hay’s presentation. By the way, in my limited experience with cats (those belonging to girlfriends and wives over the years), they usually think you’re a nut if you DON’T walk around muttering to yourself.


  • Kate says:

    Hi Anne- Thanks for this.. I’ve been noticing a lot of blogs these days are more like websites–or the blog is a component of the website. And so many have a specific focus, like travel (I’m addicted to travel blogs!). My focus is “being and writing” which probably isn’t really focused, but I like it for now. 🙂 I did recently change the design, though. I like how it’s easier and easier for us non-techies to make a blog look really good. Cheers, Kate

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