In this information age the World Wide Web is the go-to for everything from news to reviews. It is the main source of information today, and it is great place for a writer to build themselves a name and get their content published. Although, writing for the web is very different from writing a newspaper or magazine article and it is these simple, yet important, differences that can make or break a writers online pursuit.

Web Readers want to go places, they are engaged in what they are reading and are often in search of specific information. They know there is a plethora of sites to see and they want to keep moving.

Print Readers are aiming more towards relaxation and are in a relatively passive state. They are geared towards being entertained, and are often seeking pleasure rather than factual information.

The differences between writing for print (such as a newspaper article) and writing for the web may seem simple, but they require some basic knowledge of reading styles, and a different approach to the content itself.

Headlines are the first place that you will notice a difference between print writing and the online media. Where a newspaper might use a catchy headline to grab a reader’s attention, web writers need to be very specific in their wording in order to have their content found in the search engine results. A rule of thumb for online headlines is that they must have keywords, details, and facts. A newspaper has the advantage of attaching a visible photo which coupled with the catchy headline, helps to reel readers in through curiosity. Web writing relies on search engines to gather readers and most titles are listed in plain text, thus they must clearly state what the piece is about. An article about the effects of ballet on the feet in a newspaper might get away with a title of ‘Tippy Toes‘, but online it would be lost among the excess of articles, and would surely be beaten out in the search engine by results that are more specifically worded.

When you are writing headlines for a piece online you must consider exactly what a reader will type into the search engine in order to find your page, the closer you are to their wording, the higher you are on the lengthy search results list. Clarity over cleverness is key to writing on the web, and clarity can be achieved by using informative text in the first 3 words of your headline. Web writers speed read and scan and thus they rarely see a link in its entirety, be sure you catch their attention with clear, concise headlines and follow-up with easy to read factual information.

The web is aimed towards more specific information, so an article about the effects of ballet on the feet should include reviews of ballet shoes, solutions to the issues, and suggestions for preventive measures. Where a newspaper article will skim the surface of an issue, feeding you the basics you need to know, an online article needs to dig deep and cover all the bases. A good online article will tell you not only how to avoid, ease or erase the issue at hand, but will specify exactly who to see, what to buy, where to go, and how to do so.

Another major difference between print and online media is the tone. Print publications are geared more towards relaxation and entertainment than solution-hunting. In print writing you can use a more personal tone to ‘tell a story‘, where writing for the web requires the use of much more factual information. Storytelling online is often viewed as filler, and tends to slow the reader down, or stop them altogether. Web readers are in search of information, and they often want to find it fast. Ensuring that you have all the facts in place, in an easy to read format, will help your readers gather the information they require without the added effort.

Keeping content to the basics is an important part of online writing. Web readers will often only skim through content to find what they are looking for, and a ‘story‘ that would be otherwise amusing become a road-block on their immediate mission. Sentence structure and detailed paragraphs become somewhat unimportant in comparison to easy to find facts. Keeping your word count and content to a minimum is actually a plus in the world of web writing. Be sure that you get to the point quickly and provide only the essential information.

The last major difference between print and web is the readers requirements. Print such as newspapers, magazines and even television are author-driven and the reader is often willing to tag along for the ride in the hopes of being entertained. Writing on the web is different, readers online want to be in control of what they see and read, thus the content becomes reader-driven and often needs to be more in-depth and flexible. Web writing is an action based media that allows the reader to choose which information is important to them, and which they don’t care to see at all. This is an important fact to remember when writing for the web and can easily make (or break) your site and its content online.

These rules do not apply to all styles of online writing, and like any other advice, it is simply advice and there are always examples of these rules being broken with great success. Always do what you think is best for you and remember to have fun with your writing.

Do you have any online writing tips you wish to share?
Feel free to post your tips, tricks, advice, and questions in t comments section below or email your submissions to:
perfectlyprompted@live.ca

Until Next Time…

Write On!