Web Writing Vs. Traditional Writing Tips

Web-based writing is an evolving media online, meaning that it has experienced many changes over the years, especially when you compare it to traditional writing. This is why web writing and editing have so many differences from traditional writing and editing. It is important to acknowledge these differences and evolve alongside digital writing. Here are some differences between web editing and traditional editing and how to avoid making errors between the two.

6 Examples

There are a couple of major differences when upgrading to writing online, surrounding issues like style, sourcing, and protocol. For example, Jason Steele from contently.com lists 6 major differences, including topics of hooks, length, sourcing, accountability, pitching, and pay.

  • Hooks: Because there are so many similar sources of information online, digital writers have to fight for attention. With traditional print writing, your reader has made more of a commitment in choosing your piece and is less likely to move on to a new source so easily. You can keep your reader’s attention online by making content that clearly informs the audience from the beginning.
  • Length: Most online readers have less patience to read a lengthy web article than a print one. Steele notes that this is because a majority of what is written for the web is under 1,000 words. Steele recommends keeping web articles between 1,000-1,500 words in this respect.
  • Sourcing: Where print sources can be more strict with sourcing, online writers have more leniency to express their own credibility and authority online.
  • Accountability: Because of how mainstream comments sections have become, it is much easier for online writers to receive criticism for mistakes. And social media allows both web and traditional readers to contact you as an author, making accountability very important.
  • Pitching: When proposing an idea for an article, there may be more pressure on a traditional writer to meet the high expectations of print editors. A pitch for us as digital writers wouldn’t be as time-consuming due to the short nature of the articles that we would be writing.
  • Pay: While online writing is increasing in opportunity, the content is typically easier to produce than traditional writing, making the pay less in comparison to still-thriving traditional writing.

These are just a few examples of how traditional writing and web writing differ and how you can use it to your advantage as an author or editor of either.

Tips for Digital Writers and Editors

With style and technology as our focuses, we can find even more differences between traditional and web writing. Here are a few more examples from Richard Fellner’s advice on www.quora.com.

Inverted pyramid image

Example of Inverted Pyramid Method, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Like Steele, Fellner also notes that web writing should be shorter than traditional writing because generally the attention span of an online reader is shorter. It is also specifically noted to use shorter paragraphs and sentences to reach the point faster. He also recommends writing using the style of the inverted pyramid, by putting the main point of your article at the beginning while you still have your reader’s attention.

Next, don’t bother trying to be clever with your headlines as one would in print media. You won’t always have an image to coincide with your headings, so a clever heading based on a picture or other non-included reference could confuse and turn readers away. Adding key terms to your titles keeps your article focused and boosts your SEO.

Finally, chunking text and using bullet points or numbered lists will help keep your reader moving and allow your article to be scan-able.

By recognizing the differences between traditional and web-based writing, and following these tips by those who have first-hand experience in the field, we can all improve our quality of work as digital writers.


Jason Steele, 6 Ways Writing for Online Is Different Than Print

Richard Fellner, How is writing for the Web different from paper-based media?


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