If you know how to write for business, then you know how to write for the intranet, right?
Well, not necessarily.
Because the intranet is read on the computer screen, your colleagues will consume it differently than they would a printed business material such as an annual report or proposal.
For one thing, it’s harder to read from a computer monitor than it is to read words printed on paper. You have to consider this when writing for the intranet.
Also, it’s been proven that people don’t really read online. Rather, they scan. According to Jakob Nielsen, web usability expert and author of Prioritizing Web Usability, website readers tend to go over a page in an F-shaped pattern. This is another factor that should guide how you write on the intranet.
Another thing to consider is the reality of your colleagues’ lives: they’re in a hurry, they’re busy, and a dozen other things are competing for their attention — both in your intranet and outside of it.
With all this in mind, remember the following tips next time you write something for your company intranet:
1. Write a catchy but clear title.
The title of your intranet article or blog post is extremely important. It’s the first thing your colleagues will notice. They’ll decide whether to read your writing on not based on the title. Because of the F-shaped reading pattern, the first 2 to 3 words of your title are the most important. A well-written title also helps the intranet return relevant search results.
So you have a two-fold challenge when crafting a title. You need a title that will catch your readers’ interest. At the same time, you need a title that clearly says what the content is all about.
It’s not easy and, for this reason, you may choose to write the title last. Many writers do that.
2. Write a useful introduction or summary.
Next to the title, your first paragraph is an important factor to whether or not intranet users will read the rest of your writing. A good guide is to answer the following questions in your intro:
- What is this content all about?
- Why should the intranet user keep reading?
3. Write in a conversational tone.
Most business writing is not conversational, and so this tip may come as a surprise. Aren’t you supposed to be business-like on your intranet?
Sure, you are, but that doesn’t mean being stiff or boring. Write the way you would talk in a meeting. I’m pretty sure that’s more relaxed than your annual reports.
4. Write like a journalist.
Your readers are in a hurry, so go ahead and put your key points up front, like a journalist does. Get straight to the point instead of burying it in paragraphs of text. Instead, state your most important statements in the beginning, then follow with supporting points.
5. Keep it brief.
By now you’ve noticed that writing for the intranet involves making your reader’s job as easy as possible. That means your intranet content should be only as long as it needs to be. Remove all fluff.
And, remember how it’s harder to read from a computer screen than from paper? This means you need to keep your sentences and paragraphs short.
6. Make your writing scannable.
Speaking of keeping things easy on your readers’ eyes, use the different tools available to make your content scannable. These tools include:
- numbered or bulleted lists
- font styling, such as bold and italics
7. Make your content findable.
Since you’re working so hard writing content for your intranet, make it easy for intranet users to find. This means anticipating what words and phrases they would use to find your content, and sprinkling these “keywords” all over your writing. The title is a good place to have a keyword as well as, of course, in the body of your writing.
Some intranets allow you to add metadata to articles. If yours does, use it. Type your keywords into the metadata and, if possible, write an accurate description of your article or post. If you can tag your article, do so.
These steps will help your intranet users find your writing when they type those keywords in your intranet’s search box.
8. Spice things up with images and other media.
On the intranet, you can communicate more effectively by using multimedia: not just pictures but also videos and slideshows. As easy and rewarding as it is to use multimedia, add them only when they’re relevant to your content.
9. Cross-reference to related content.
One thing you can easily do in your intranet — that you can’t do in other forms of communication — is to link to other relevant content, both inside and outside your intranet. Learn how to create hyperlinks and use them to lead your readers who want to learn more. However, don’t get carried away, because you may lose your readers entirely as they click AWAY from your writing.
10. Write with the reader’s end-goal in mind.
Finally, we get to the most important writing tip of all: write to help your readers reach their goals. You may be writing to stroke your own ego, make yourself look better in the eyes of the C-suite, or to help advance your career. No matter what your goals are, your writing will fall flat if it doesn’t help your readers with their goals. Why should they be interested in what you have to share? How will it help them? What are they looking for? What knowledge do you have that they want?
Write for your readers, and you won’t have to worry about being ignored.
These are our top 10 intranet writing tips. Did we forget anything? Let us know.