Journalism and Writing for the Web

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"Subheads are especially helpful in selling. They can gain attention (Free!), spark interest (How to retire in two years!), and make readers act (Click here for your instant subscription). " -- Writing for the Web 3.0 by Crawford Kilian

In chapters 3 and 4, I began to notice many similarities between web writing, and journalism. One thing that struck me about some of the tips for website organization, primarily those involved with blurbs and headlines is that they reminded me of a lecture we got in Journalism and Mass Media 100 years ago. We discussed the changes made to USA Today that eventually lead to it becoming one of the most (if not the most) widely circulated US newspapers. It's editors opted to make drastic changes to it's design and layout, in an effort to capture more readers. For one, if you casually toss an issue on a table, there is almost a visible "F" shape. The entire column to the left is filled with blurbs and hooks, as well as "old-fashioned links" (page numbers.) The two top stories have big bold headlines and sub-headlines that make up the rest of the "F". While this format is common among newspapers today, USA Today was among the first to switch to this more user-friendly format. I find it interesting that years later, these are still the same guidelines for successful web writing.

"Much of what goes on your site will end up on paper anyway, and the basics of good writing are the same in any medium." --- Writing for the Web 3.0 by Crawford Kilian

The vast majority of the tips were universal for the English language. Things like avoiding fragments, properly using adjectives, and avoiding the passive voice, are good tips for any writing. The part that was more web-specific, dealt with using simple words, when possible. The author specifically discussed the origins of words, as well as the tendency of Anglo-saxon words to be simpler than their Latin-based synonyms. That was something I'd never considered. While the tips were less a set of rules, and more general guidelines, I noticed they were quite similar to those taught in media writing classes, and AP style in general. The rules of avoiding anything complex and using strong verbs are recommended in most media writing. I can understand this as the aims for websites and newspapers are very similar. Both need to keep a balance between being attractive to the user, and useful as a source of information to them. Both also typically, though not always, have the goal of attracting as many readers/hits as possible. 

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