Device independent: Words to avoid online

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

With responsive design, RSS, mobile and direct traffic to websites, there are some words to avoid when writing for online audiences.

Let’s take this site for example. Depending on how you are viewing it, the pictures might appear on the right or on the top of the content. The sidebar might be below all the homepage posts (especially on mobile) and not on the right where it would be on a desktop or laptop computer. But the posts might look different, yet, in the email newsletter or in an RSS reader.

Some words may not work across platforms and devices.

Some examples of words to potentially avoid

“Pictured at right/below”
Depending on the site’s design and the user’s device the picture might not be at right but instead below. This blog, as mentioned, uses responsive design and pictures show differently on different devices.

This also doesn’t work as nicely if posts are automatically fed into an email newsletter. The post might say “the picture below” but email readers actually have to click over to the website to see the picture and the rest of the post.

Solution: Don’t use the phrases. Use self-explanatory pictures and/or add a caption/cutline. Don’t even call the photos out in the copy. They should work without saying: At right….

“After the jump”
I don’t see this all that often anymore but I do see this. This refers to that the story continues after clicking on a link (and stems from the newspaper industry where stories jumped from the front page and continued on another page).

This works for readers who are visiting the site’s homepage. “After the jump” makes sense to them. But this doesn’t work on RSS feeds or if somebody has a direct link to the article. It’s not necessary for those readers and might not even make sense.

“As mentioned above”
I usually notice this in books (on my iPad Kindle) where the author says this and whatever is supposed to be above is actually on a previous page.

Solution: Say “as mentioned earlier” or avoid this altogether.

Not words: Some picture alignments or naming conventions don’t work
We might as well assume that everything that is typed into a picture field or on WordPress will be public somewhere. Some devices show alt text. Some don’t.

Main take-aways

Words matter, especially in our online blog posts. As devices continue to evolve it’s important for us – the content producers – to consider how our chosen words add value to our consumers.

If we say to check out the picture below, but it’s not below, that doesn’t add value. It might even be confusing. Saying that a photo is “cropped” is only useful for internal purposes.

How do we remember this? Some words, are just good to eliminate completely (see above), but I’m sure we’ll run across more examples down the road. At that point we’ll just learn from those.