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Chapter 1. Writing for the Web > Web Paragraphs are Different - Pg. 5

Writing for the Web 5 But subheads don't necessarily need to be dramatic. If you're writing a story about a stock-market analyst's predictions, for instance, and the analyst is saying that the overall market will decline over the next year but that stocks in a particular sector will rise, you'll need to lead with one idea or the other--probably the overall market. But a well-placed subheading that says "Companies that will buck the trend" will entice at least some readers to continue to that section. Subheads not only keep articles moving along, they also serve a design function by breaking up the otherwise uniform blocks of type into less-forbidding looking chunks. For subheads to be truly effective on the Web, they must be used liberally. Some websites use subheads but place them too far apart to be helpful. A subhead every six or seven paragraphs can be okay in print, but only because a reader is looking at a much larger piece of text than the Web reader ever sees at a given moment. The subheads used in this introduction, for instance, would be much too widely spaced for the Web. Online, either on the Web or in email, you should insert subheads often enough so that a reader never scrolls for more than a screen and a half without seeing one. Web Paragraphs are Different To make your documents efficient and attractive for online readers, you need to ensure that the structure of the writing--the way that sentences and paragraphs are arranged on the screen--is suitable for Web reading. Among the most important elements of structure for online reading is paragraph length. Although you can consult a dozen writing guides and find many "rules" about how to write para- graphs, there really aren't any rules. The ideal paragraph length depends not only on the kind of writing you're doing and the style and tone you adopt but also on the format and medium in which