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Writing for the web

Part of our first assignment for Web Development this week was to read five chapters in “Interact with Web Standards.” Erin Anderson‘s overview on writing for the web was the most immediately useful — ie take this and run with it now before you ever learn drupal.

Interact with Web Standards book cover.

Web Development class textbook.

If you’re a writer who wants to be a web writer, Anderson provides a great overview of the job description. And for those of us with a dead-tree background it highlights the finer points of how writing for the web is different than writing. A journalist whose stories are posted on the web, isn’t necessarily a web journalist.

Here’s my 30-second take-away:

-Web users scan, they don’t read. Or if they do read, they need a compelling reason.

-They’re goal-oriented and the information you provide should support decision-making.

– So, web copy should be broken into chunks and longer texts should have periodic headings that keep readers interested and engaged.

– Copy should be sprinkled with keywords and the head and subheds should lead with keywords.

– Readers should have something TO DO when they’re done.

What are some news sites that are also good web writing? Are they online-only sites or do traditional print publishers adapt well for the web?

Jonathan Stray argues in his blog post, Designing Journalism to be Used, that no news sites right now really accomplish the true purpose of journalism — to facilitate action as well as to inform. In other words, by Anderson’s definition, journalists are poor web writers.

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