Writing – for the Web

8 Simple Ways to Improve Your Web Writing Today

By Lynn Walsh, Texas Watchdog
(from RTDNA.org   Feb 24, 2011)

Writing for the web. It’s not TV, it’s not newspaper, it’s not magazine and it’s not radio – it’s all four!

Online journalism combines video, audio and writing into one medium providing endless storytelling possibilities for journalists and a more enjoyable experience for the audience. However, with more media platforms comes more information and more sources, making it harder for your story to get clicked on.

And just copying your newspaper story or the script from your television package and pasting it on a web page is not going to cut it. Audiences read news online differently.

Scanning not reading. As interesting as you think your article is, if it online people are probably not reading it word for word. They are scanning and trying to absorb as much information as possible before moving on to the next thing.

Searching for something. The internet is not the Sunday paper. Readers tend not to scroll through every word or story until something catches their eye. Most of the time they already know what they are looking for and if it’s not what they are looking for they will not stay long!

More impatient. With so much information online people aren’t spending valuable time searching a page for what they are looking for. If they do not see it right away they will most likely go to the next search result.

Most likely multi-tasking. When is the last time you only had one internet browser open? Well, you are not alone. People enjoy the internet because it is fast and provides opportunities for doing many things at once — reading news is not an exception.

From writing the story to sharing it on social media sites, here are some tips to make sure your story doesn’t get lost in the online universe or worse yet buried on page four of a Google search result page.

1. Keep it short and sweet. Keep sentences short. Omit unnecessary words. Only include one idea per paragraph. Keep paragraphs short: tell the reader to “read me.”

2. Subheads are key. Remember readers are scanning — make it easy for them! Use subheads to show them where to go in the story. Use keywords that make sense in the subhead titles.

3. Lists and bullets are your friend. Use whenever possible! It makes keywords stick out.

– It breaks up content
– It looks more readable
– It seems more manageable

That reads better than: “It breaks up the content, it looks more readable and it seems more manageable.”

4. Be conversational. Use active words. Actually talk to the reader. This is a lot more like broadcast writing style then print. Use words like “you” and “we.” Use words that people know — even if spellcheck says they don’t exist!

5. Remember the inverted pyramid. Keep the most important information up top, but do it because it is important not because of space issues. On the internet you have as much space as you need — use lists and subheads to highlight that information up top, then go into more detail.

6. Links are crucial. They provide readers with more information. They can help move your article up in searches (if the links work). They also make certain words stand out to readers.

7. Bold, italicize, uppercase. In lists, in paragraphs and in subheads. Be careful to not do it to much though — it can look messy. (Also, always be sure to check with your news organizations policy on this!)

8. Be direct. Web readers are there for information — GIVE IT TO THEM! Do not dance around the subject.

Once the story is written it is time to share the link. From Facebook to Twitter and every site in between, how you share a story can really make a difference.

Always include a link. If a story can be told without a link in less than 140 characters, then why write a story at all. If you don’t have a link people don’t know where to go!

Don’t just re-type the headline. People have most likely already seen the headline from your news organizations account. Re-write it. Don’t be redundant.

Try asking questions.
Instead of boring statements, why not raise questions? Social media is supposed to be social — start the conversation!

Engage and grab their attention. Be personal. Tell them why this is worth reading. Make it interesting. Even if it is one or two small facts you are pulling from the article, highlight what is interesting and different because most likely there will be several other news articles on the same story for them to read.

Type how you search. What would you type into Google to find the story? Use those keywords in social media posts.

All social media sites have their own tricks. But in general, people are on them to see what is fun, interesting and new. They are on these sites to be social and vocal. Use that to your advantage.

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