Online Writing Skills: 30 Ways To Improve Your Online Writing




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The best tip for online writing is this:

Make your writing concise, scannable, and objective/relevant.

 

Part 1: How users behave online

 

1. Users want to search for things online.

 

2. They hate waiting.

 

3. Eye tracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.

They also read from left to write in a 'Z' fashion. That means put your best stuff on the left.

 

4. Most readers scan over headlines without bothering to read the article.

 

5. Users spend 4.4 seconds for every extra 100 words on a page.

 

Part 2: How to write well online

 

6. Write in an inverted pyramid style: start with the conclusion and put the least important data lowered down. (This is also called the newspaper style of writing)

 

7. The first two paragraphs must state the most important information

 

8. Write in an active voice. You can use passive voice in headings.

 

9. Unless it is breaking news/definition, do not make your article too short. Try to make your post at least 300- 400 words long.

 

10. Contrary to popular opinion, long articles may work

If they have something of value, are divided into short paragraphs with descriptive paragraph headings (in bold) and augmented by bullet lists, charts, and photos.

 

'... any story can be told in 800 words.'

- Roy Peter Clark, Poynter.org

 

11. To write something interesting (perhaps the way a user will look at your writing), be on the topic and try not to write the same old story everyone else is writing.

 

Search for duplicates and related stories on Google before you decide to write your micro-opus. Give the story your own angle. Everytime.

 

Be opinionated - Don't hesitate to put forth your case however outlandish you may think it is, provided it is backed by logical data.

 

12. Be unique and have a voice - try not to write in a bland manner.

 

13. Say it out loud before you publish it. Check for a natural delivery.

 

14. Write one high quality and well researched article at least once a week to hone your online writing and develop a following.

 

15. Tag/Categorize your writing intelligently - use keywords that describe the story lucidly and so that readers might discover your articles easily.

 

Part 3: What to write online

 

General topics

 

The thing to remember to writing about the news: What is that one thing about the story? (there is always one thing that will stand out in the reader's mind)

 

16. Lists: Most popular form of online stories. readers love them, but online writers have abused the form. The internet is drowning in lists. Don't make a list unless you really have to. E.g. 'Top 20 reasons not to write list articles anymore.'

 

17. Contrast two options: Where you compare two or more different positions on a topic. For example, people who choose Microsoft products and those who hate it.

 

18. Explaining your position: For example, write about why you loved a movie that everyone else hated.

 

19. How to: Instructional Articles. Another mainstay of online writing. Either improve on existing how-tos (someone writes a top 25 ways to cook..., you write top 50 ways to cook...), or write for a topic you think hasn't been covered yet. (Search Google first)

 

20. What is: Where you write in detail about some specific issue or topic after having done detailed research.

 

21. Inspiring, feel-good stories: For example, people love reading and sharing stories like, 'how I overcame Asthma and ran the marathon.' Inspiring case studies (''How a single person website beat Facebook'') also do well.

 

22. Report an interesting experience: For example, how is it like living in Mosul today, or 24 hrs in the life of a volunteer doctor.

 

23. Stories and opinions about high-profile names (celebrities, 'experts') and brands bring good traffic as well. (TMZ made a business from these kind of stories).

 

News-oriented topics

 

The next three suggestions are easy to do. They build your credibility quickly and you will get into the groove on online writing in no time.

 

24. Roundups: Summarize what the papers say on a topic, and what the blogs and Twitter say.

 

Summarize each source in 1/2 line maximum. If you need to provide a quote from the source do it ASAP.

 

25. Short post about something notable: Give a snappy attention-grabbing headline ('Al Pacino will not be making any more movies, and we are thankful')

- Start with a summary/question straightaway 1/2 line

- Give a quote from the post that is the main point of the story, (or, a photo/video),

- End with a quick flourish

 

Good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else.

- Stephen King

 

26. Liveblog an event: Post a 1/2 line summary very few minutes. There is no fixed time rule. The best way is to blog each time something significant happens

- Put a time stamp [e.g. 12 noon] in bold at start of sentence

- Highlight key segments with a caption after the time-stamp [e.g. 12 noon - the speech; e.g. 2 PM - On Recession...]

- Also grab items from Twitter related to the events to grab the user's attention.

 

27. Create a Resource Page: Resource pages are upgraded versions of roundups where you not only aggregate and summarize posts from web sites and blogs but also put in extra information:

- A basic fact sheet about the topic

- Links to older articles from the net

- Links to tools

- Graphics

- Links to photos and videos

- Maps

- Glossaries

- links to other resources on the topic on the net: Wikipedia pages, coverage by big name media titles like New York Times...

 

28. Do Quick interviews: Limit questions to not more than 5

- An Example of interview series - '5 Questions about …'

- Ask relevant questions with a view on current news/scenario

- Your peers, local bloggers, experts, authors, famous people [if they agree to be interviewed] these are some of the obvious interview targets

 

Tip: Smart writers combine two or more related interviews to create a story.

 

29. Do a Trend Story [aka 'Here's what I think' story]: Have you noticed the same kind of stories on websites and blogs the past week/s or so? Everyone is writing about some particular problem, topic.

 

What do you think about it? Can you look at problem from a bird's point of view? If you can you can see what is stake. The New York Times does great trend stories using this 'Big Picture' thinking.

 

There are two ways you can go about writing a trend story:

 

A: Just do a roundup of what others are saying - Offer your own opinion

B: Do a roundup, but first break the problem into sub-problems. Analyze each person's/newspaper's opinion for what it is. Ask questions; go in details, offer alternatives if there are.

C. Many trend stories write about 'what's going to happen next'.

 

Trend stories are hard. Nevertheless, they make up for great pieces of writing and make a writer's name. These kind of stories are rivaled or bettered only by long investigative stories or deep profiles, but these require time and money.

 

30. Just post a news picture: And add some text (your biting opinion in 1-3 lines) to the photo. These kind of quick posts are often very shareable, if you pick a topic that a lot of people are worked up about.

 

Note: You will find more advice on online writing than any other kinds of writing online. You will come across 'headline formulas', 'clickbait' (headlines especially meant for people to click) and so on. Do your Google searches if you want to look for a 'perfect headline', but this writer's favorite is something like 'Letter from mother of a child dead from shooting' - This covers a big topic ('gun violence') an also targets a 'tribe' (mothers).

 

Also search Google for 'news website launch checklist', 'blog launch checklist', etc.

 

Thank you for reading.
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In: Writing Skills