The Woes of Web Writing: Is Grammar Important?

You and your business associates have decided that the time has finally come — your business needs a website. But conflict pervades! Your coworker Marcus is highly charismatic, excellent with the written word, and is enthusiastic about the prospect of writing the copy for the website. Cathy, however, objects strongly to this idea. “Have you seen his marketing proposals? They’re riddled with grammatical errors!” Cathy insists that she, as meticulous with spelling and grammar, is the wiser choice for copywriting.

You’re torn. Cathy has a point — Marcus disregards the rules of grammar with gusto. But Cathy’s write-ups, though flawlessly worded and written with precise grammar, are dry. Marcus, indignant at Cathy’s outburst, points this out. “I dare you to wade through Cathy’s writing without falling asleep! It can’t be done.”

With both employees clearly in no position to work together, you’re stuck with a dilemma: Marcus’ casual tone might be more personable, but Cathy’s will almost certainly appear more professional. What is more important when it comes to writing for the Internet?

I am convinced that trying to write right is what keeps many people from writing well

Well, that depends on who you ask. Dan Furman firmly backs up Marcus’ position in his book entitled Do the Web Write. “I am convinced that trying to write right is what keeps many people from writing well,” he articulates, demonstrating his point with flourish; “people just get so wound up in making sure their grammar is correct that they let it get in the way of just writing what they mean.” Furman is a firm believer of ensuring the websites he designs are easy-to-read and easily understandable. “If your writing is interesting and clear, does it really matter if it has fragments? Trust me,” he writes with an air of confidentiality, “in regards to business, it really doesn’t.”

correctness is … part of clarity because it helps readers understand your message more clearly

Meanwhile another author, Crawford Kilian, offers a different perspective in Writing for the Web. “If you like long, long paragraphs full of long, long words, your readers will soon lose interest in what you have to say,” he writes. “Your role as a web writer is to make your reader’s job effortless.” A major component of that is writing while employing grammatical laws. “This kind of correctness is … part of clarity because it helps readers understand your message more clearly.”

Kilian and Furman would probably agree on at least one thing: Your website content must be clear and easy-to-read in order to be effective. But where Kilian might argue that the key to clear writing is in the grammar, Furman might argue that it’s all in the language.

So who should write your website’s copy — Cathy the grammarian or Marcus the engaging writer?

Well, that’s up to you — but both Kilian and Furman offer solid advice. Catching your audience with engaging language that is also grammatically correct — a happy medium — is probably the best possible solution. Why choose one over the other when both language and grammar augment clarity and readability?

More Information: do-the-web-write-cover-largeDo the Web Write is available to purchase from our Web store.


Writing for the Web is also available in the Web store.

You can see the entire table of contents of each book, together with initial chapters, on the store pages.

Click on cover images to enlarge

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