Good Writing Practices

Here are some things that writers will often do to help ensure the audience can easily read their writing.

Don't use coloured text

Coloured text may seem like a good way to differentiate between either actions, dialogue or thoughts. However, in most cases having a different coloured text can be more a distraction than benefit. The human eye will often gravitate to that which stands out. And by highlighting one section of text it can make that the sole focus of a post. This can mean it's more difficult for readers to finish the post.

Furthermore, having a coloured text can make it extremely difficult to read if the site offers multiple skins with different colour backgrounds. A colour that may look good on one skin may blend right in on another (or be only a few shades off).

Limit enhancements

Much like colours, having too much text that is bold or italic can prove to be a distraction rather than a help. This is not to say don't use it for emphasis once in a while, but limit how often it's used.

A good practice for using bold or italics is to reserved it for single words primarily. (Though certain key phrases may be emphasized with them, but they should be a lot rarer.)

Create space

Good writers (like those published) try to keep their easier to read by breaking the pages up some. This means dropping down to a new line for speech. And for paragraphs watching their size to ensure they don't get far too large.

In online situations this becomes even more critical because massive blocks of text become more difficult to read. (It's easier to fit more words per line on a computer screen than a page. This means a paragraph on a computer could be several paragraphs from a book.)

Generally a good size for paragraphs is 4-6 lines. (One line is usually designated as being from capital to period.)

Avoid excessive punctuation

Similar to watching the space in a paragraph, a good practice for writers is to note of their line lengths. Lines can get easily clogged and expanded though over use of commas or brackets. This isn't to say don't use commas or brackets, merely that there shouldn't be more then one set of each per line. Generally anything more than one set of each will normally mean that a single line ends up being longer than 2 or even 3 lines if broken up.

Furthermore when using commas, which tend to be the most incorrectly used punctuation mark, please be aware that they are not meant to extend lines infinitely. It's generally not a good idea to have more than 3 commas in one line (unless they're being used in a list of one-two word things). So something like this would be acceptable: J. Jonah Jameson hates: Spiderman, flowers, corrections, retractions, public apologies, public apologies to Spiderman, weddings and Spiderman.

Don't doHTML

If HTML is an option for posting, it's largely a good idea to refrain from using it. HTML, if improperly used, can cause a massive mess of a page with no easy way to fix the problem. Having a single tag left unclosed (with a proper ending like </td> for a table cell) or improperly closed (like a spelling mistake) can cause entire sections of the forum to be sucked into the tag and removed. Additionally, hover codes (that hide text until you mouse over it) are obnoxious and make reading more difficult than it has to be. (Especially for users on mobile devices where hovering with a mouse may not be an option.)

Don't use moving parts

Adding animated images (like a .gif) or marquee text may look cool… however it can be extremely distracting to readers. Movement catches their eye and makes it harder to focus on the words. Some people even experience headaches/migraines from this.

It may also be a good idea to refrain from using animated gifs in signatures/avatars (or any location very close by the text to be read) too to prevent this from being an issue.

Check before posting

Before you submit a post check your post to see if you can spot any errors. Things like spelling mistakes or incorrectly used punctuation. (If you can spend 20 or more minutes writing the post… take the extra minute or two to give it a look over and fix any errors you spot. Fixing any errors makes your post easier to read for others.)