Do I have your attention?
Why am I writing like this? I want you to stay here. I don’t want your mind to wander to Facebook or Twitter or whatever.
So I will:
- write short sentences
- use lots of bulleted lists
- hyperlink thoughtfully and helpfully (turning the hyperlink into a big target)
- bold words that a reader might scan for, like names of people or companies
- use clear (not necessarily clever) subheads to break up longer articles at logical points
- stick to the rule of one thought per paragraph.
Notice the perfect parallel structure (above)? Thanks.
And let’s be honest with ourselves about how we read on line so we can do a better job for our readers.
You’re not alone if you get an uneasy feeling that you have to sacrifice your journalistic ideals to write news stories this way; lots of people feel that way at first. Remember that not every story should be written this way. It may be helpful to make a mental distinction between a “report” and a “story.” When you’re writing a report, you should be making conscious decisions about conveying information to the reader as efficiently and logically as possible. When you’re writing a story, you’re focused on creating a compelling narrative, using word choice, rhythm, pace, figurative language and color to create an imaginative immersion for the reader.
Think about how you read on line. Watch yourself: Do you jump from item to item? What kinds of stories are you most likely to read all the way to the end?
How well does this story about a proposed tax increase reflect what the Slate article says about the way we read on line? What could the writer have done differently to make this piece more readable? And, as a reader, what do you think of it?