nSight Workshop
Writing & Editing
for the Web

Print to Web Skills

Good Writing Works on the Web


Applying Orwell's Rules

Focused Writing Rewards

Concision in Action









Writing That Works on the Web

Concision, clarity, focus, organization


Writing: build sentences, paragraphs, units of thought

Editing: cull, shape, analyze; pull clarity from chaos

Context: connect and contrast ideas, facts, and opinions

Defining: deliver the most important message

Leverage: amplify messages through multiple channels

Collaborate: work with others to create and deliver a message






Applying Orwell's Principles


Politics and the English Language


George Orwell's classic text on writing, ca 1946, includes six basic rules:


Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.






Personal Writing Guidelines

What are your favorite writing rules?











Concision Checklist

Concision is essential in Web writing. Here are a few ways to cut useless words.


Avoid redundant words and phrases – "The holes must be aligned in an accurate manner" becomes "The holes must be aligned."

Replace wordy introductory phases with a word – "despite the fact that" becomes "although."

Cut meaningless modifiers – "generally, certain, various…"

Convert negatives to positives – "They did not have the funds" becomes "They lacked the funds."

Trim long sentences – aim for 15-25 words.

Convert preposition phrases into adjectives or possessives – "The president of the company" (five words) becomes "The company president" or "The company's president." (three words)

Cut sentences and paragraphs that do not contribute to the central idea.

Delete information readers are likely to know or can infer.






Example: Before and After


Original web text:


Qantas has announced a new "Aussie Air Pass" for round-trip travel from the U.S. to Australia, plus three domestic flights within Australia for a period of seven to 21 days. The pass starts at $999 round-trip, and travel is valid from November 1 through December 9, 2004; or from April 26 through June 17, 2005; or from July 19 through August 26, 2005.

63 words



Qantas Airlines’ new Aussie Air Pass offers a U.S.-Australia roundtrip plus three domestic flights for a little more than the roundtrip cost alone. The deal, starting at $999 and offered for periods this fall, spring, and summer, works best for East Coast travelers since their roundtrips start near $1000.

49 words









Concision Exercise


Please cut the text of the online article below to about 250 words. First define an audience, then focus on condensing the most important ideas or information. Cut the rest. 

Please write a new headline that

  • Captures the main point of the article
  • Eight words or less
  • From: Subject + verb + ?  
  • Makes sense independently


PoynterOnline article about how to lower a Web site’s bounce rate






Top | Writing and Editing for the Web home | Nancy DuVergne Smith