- How is writing an ebook different from writing a blog post, a special report, a web page, or for a printed book?
- Are there any grammar or style differences?
- Formatting issues aside, what are the rules and best practices to improve readability and boost readership numbers?
Or, is it any different? Most people I know, including many of my clients for whom I ghost write and edit, assume that all book writing is the same. They try to follow the rules of style and grammar learned in school.
They could be wrong. If there’s one thing rapidly changing technology has taught us is to question everything. Don’t assume anything.
For digital content, the same rules of grammar apply and are essential for clarity. But in general, writing for digital is more conversational and informal. There’s a big shift in how you say what you want to say. At the same time you need to keep keywords in the foreground so that your material gets appropriately indexed.
All this is for naught if you don’t remember this essential rule: Your expert e-book isn’t about you or your expertise. It’s about what your readers need to know.
The key to writing an expert ebook lies in what some of us were taught in journalism school:
Connect with your readers. Writing an ebook is similar to writing on the Web using any channel in that the reader comes first. It’s all about them and their interests.
What do they most want to know? How do they want to learn that?
In Ginny Redish’s excellent book Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works, she provides excellent guidelines:
Good web writing:
Is like a conversation
Answers people’s questions
Lets people grab and go
I think this is equally important in writing a good expert ebook, do you? People don’t want to be lectured and they don’t want to read through a lot of background history or research.
They want to know that stuff, but prefer reading it in stories. And in fact, that’s the way we speak in conversations. We stop listening to know-it-alls that regurgitate facts and figures, don’t we? But when someone tells a story, we get captivated.
The most challenging part of these good digital writing ‘rules,’ is number two, “answers people’s questions.” How do you know what they are? And because people differ so much, how do you know you’re answering the most significant problems they think about?
You can’t really know. You can research, survey, and ask. But don’t assume. Do your background work first, then write to connect with readers’ most pressing needs.
What have you noticed about the writing style differences in digital forms vs. printed? I’d love to hear from you.