New Year’s Resolution: Writing Better For The Web

Printing_Press,_1829_woodcut_by_George_BaxterI generally believe in writing every day, either for myself or for work. But for long stretches over the holidays, I didn’t write a thing. Besides a friend’s wedding in June, I hadn’t taken off any significant time last year and I was feeling burned out.

When I got back into it this week though, I started thinking about the things I wanted to improve and writing for all of you was on the top of my list. I want to write more frequently and continue to improve overall. Part of that is getting better at thinking about what writing for the web means and what distinguishes it from other forms of media.

With that in mind, I wanted to list off a few of the ways I plan on writing better for the web in 2013.

1. Long form is still okay for the web

I love reading stuff from The Atlantic or Grantland.com that is longer form. When you read about writing for the web, so much of it focuses on tight, optimized and short content. I’ve sat in on sessions with fellow bloggers who said to not write more than 800 words on anything for the web.

The social impacts of blogging–whether it be through an engaged readership or contact with someone who really liked a piece–is enhanced by well-crafted, long form blogging. Some of my best read pieces are the ones with over 1,000 words.

I don’t want to always go long on my posts but I don’t think it should be actively avoided. In fact, I think you should simplify and enhance the reading experience so it isn’t painful to read. Readable type, headings, and a clean layout help dramatically.

2. Best, not first (or, and first)

One of the ideas that resonated with me over the holidays was how wrong much of the media was about the Newtown shooting in the rush to get news out quickly about a developing event. With some exceptions, I am not breaking news (and certainly with this blog, I am never breaking news). My biases are out there.

For the most part though, I want to give thoughtful commentary on something. And when I am first, I want to make sure I’m not only correct but that I am also as comprehensive as possible with an initial story.

3. Headlines matter

I knew this in 2012 of course but that doesn’t mean I always did a great job of coming up with the right headline. Truth be told, a lot of content is shared on social media before it is read based on the headline and reputation of the publication or author. Combine that with automated sharing and you get the point: headlines matter.

Of course, content matters too. People who use shallow content with great headlines to drive traffic earn my scorn, even if it is a winning strategy (at least, right now it is). At the very least though, I need to even the playing field with better headlines.

4. Short is okay, too

Sometimes I don’t have a lot to say or I don’t have a lot of time to say what I want. If you saw my Google Drive folder, you’d see draft after draft. Some of those posts can’t even be used anymore because they were based on (then) current events. That’s a lot of silly effort for something that could have been avoided. An incomplete thought sometimes works okay.

Discretion is something I enjoy about writing. If something isn’t up to par, I like being able to cut it up or eliminate it completely if it doesn’t fit. But short isn’t bad if it fits everything else that I like about publishing for the web.

5. Focus on presentation

With web publishing platforms, there are millions of iterations for how you can present content. As I mentioned with long form writing, presentation is a key to make sure you don’t lose readers on longer pieces. I’m pleased with how my site displays on devices of all size (from my 25 inch monitor to my 4.5 inch smartphone) and how clean the font and styling is but I am going to continue to improve the reading experience here on the site.

Although I don’t use multimedia very frequently, there are some things I’d like to improve when it comes to displaying pictures and the like.

6. Diversify

I’d like to diversify what I am writing about. Part of burnout is not just writing a lot but writing (and editing) about the same sorts of things over and over again. I’d like to continue to expand what I am writing about but I need to figure out what topic(s) I should tackle.

If you’re writing in 2013 for the web, what are your resolutions?

5 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolution: Writing Better For The Web

  1. It’s great to hear someone saying it’s okay to write longer posts for blogs. Sometimes 450 words just isn’t enough and it doesn’t make sense to split the article up into multiple posts.

    My resolution is finish up all the series I’ve started, to write some ebooks and to comment more on blogs!

  2. Nice post. I plan on cleaning up my categories, putting more attention on my keywords – using them in headlines with more purpose. I tend to write long posts (1000 words are common), but I need to do a better job of breaking them up with subheads.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. What you have written is so true. Although my writing routine is weekly but can relate to most of the things be it diversification or length. I have not taken any resolution but would try to write better in 2013.

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