Writing for the Web
So here at the Museum of Marco Polo are the 10 things we’ve learnt about Writing for the Web.
- Keep it clear and strong. Long, convoluted sentences die on the screen. The paper page with its clear, strong lines, was uniquely devised to help you concentrate – as was the world in which it flourished. (And note that that sentence is quite long enough already.) The fluid, changeable web is utterly different. When the digital page itself is being deconstructed and the brain is following links in all directions, you have to compensate by writing with a clear, strong clarity.
- That said, you can afford to be a little bit fancy. Sometimes the web can feel unforgivingly workmanlike. A few verbal cartwheels are always nice. The reader likes to know you’ve taken the trouble.
- Remember shape matters. As the bottom of the digital page melts away it’s easy to let your articles trail away as well. But the brain retains an idea when it’s formed into a shape. You wouldn’t tell a joke without a punchline. Articles are like jokes; they need an ending.
- And beginnings matter too. The old journalistic maxim is still a good one. Put the whole story upfront in the first paragraph – and then embellish it. You don’t know if the reader will get past that first paragraph.
- Make it personal. The web is a very human world, full of voices and opinions. Maybe it’s because it’s still a foreign land for us and we like a human guide to take us through it but always put yourself into your pieces.
- Keep it honest. For some reason insincerity leaps out at you from the digital page. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.
- But – you are allowed to be provisional. The web is playful, changeable, provisional and provocative, so you are allowed to state one thing one week and then publicly go back and think again. In fact you are positively encouraged to. The paper page is complete. The digital page is a work in progress.
- The web is a visual medium. Words and images have to work together. Your articles need images. (And yes, we break this rule ourselves every day of the week, this article being no exception. We’re working on it.)
- Be generous with your time and ideas. The web is premised on the magical notion that if you scatter your ideas they will come back to reward you in ways you cannot imagine. So far our experience suggests this is true. We’ll let you know.
- Enjoy yourself. In the brutal medium of the web your boredom will be evident. Back to point 7 above. The web is a playful medium. Have fun.
(And lists aren’t bad as well – although the web has overdone them.)
And if you want to write for the Museum of Marco Polo send us in your ideas. We will look at everything. Article lengths – about 800 words. Articles to firstname.lastname@example.org