When you write an article and publish it on the web, you don't know who is going to read it. Your high school English teacher might read it. But then again, so might someone with minimal understanding of English or a person with low vision. You need to be able to target as many people as possible when writing for a web audience. One way to do that is to toss the "educated jargon." You're a journalist. We all know you can read and write. Keep it simple and keep the readers.
According to the Yahoo! Style Guide lesson entitled " Translate Voice Into Words " (pg. 36), using simple words is helpful. It's not a good idea to practice all those big words you used in school in web writing. This is not to say that web readers aren't smart. But, when a person searches for something on the internet, they just want to find and scan the info quickly. If you have too many big words, they'll just click away and move to the next, costing you a potential reader. Lighten your vocabulary load.
As an experience web writer, I agree with the Yahoo! Style Guide on this point. When I first started writing for the web, some of my work contained too many big words and complex language. You can still be considered a professional without having a talk with your thesaurus every day. Simple wording does not mean you aren't smart. It just means you're catering to your audience.
Another vocabulary-related mistake is being too formal in web writing. Take this sentence for example: "According to authorities, Amanda was unwillingly arrested, due to the unruly bar commotion she provoked." There is nothing wrong with the sentence. But it's not as easy to read as the following: "Amanda is said to be in jail after refusing to go with police. Reports state that she caused some ruckus at the bar before that." Which one is easier to follow? Most likely, it will be the second one.
There's also your unique voice. Your content should be written in a way that immediately tells readers it's something you wrote. Think of the books and articles you read often. Are there authors that stick out? Do you know right away who wrote something, based on the topic and tone? That's what you want readers to do with your work also.
One way to do this is to create your own wording for certain things. For instance, I call myself a "Momtrepreneur". When I say that, I am referring to the fact that I'm a mom and an entrepreneur at the same time. I work at home and stay home with the kids. I've received countless comments and messages over that one term. Also, just the way in which someone "speaks" in their writing should tell you who the author is. Two people can write about the same thing and have it come out entirely different. Give your content that special touch that only can come from you, but at the same time, keep it simple.
Yahoo! Style Guide by Yahoo! and Chris Barr
**Photo Credit: Lyn Lomasi
**I originally published this content on Yahoo! Voices on Aug 2, 2010