Yes, there are some similarities between writing for the web and writing for print; both forms of writing should be engaging to the reader, well structured and have an overall beginning, middle and end. But beyond that, there are a number of distinct and important differences between reader who are browsing the web for news and other content, and those who settle down with a physical book or magazine. Addressing these differences require a very different set of skills, not only in the style of writing, but also in understanding the differences between the online reader and the printed reader.
Differences between online and print writing:
Article for print
Mostly your own opinion
Your opinion often not allowed
‘The hook’ has to come in first few lines
‘The hook’ can come later in a printed article
Headlines generally longer to grab readers attention; they need to sum up the articles content and use searchable keywords and phrases
Headlines generally shorter and don’t need to use key words or phrases
Based on ‘scannable’ text. Use searchable keywords, more use of subheadings, bulleted/numbered lists, shorter paragraphs
Not based on ‘scannable’ text. Generally, paragraphs longer and less use of subheadings and bulleted lists
Half the word count (or less) than conventional writing. Generally, less than 1000 words with short, pithy blocks and one or two sentence paragraphs.
Longer than 300 words
More informal tone often reflecting writer’s personality, sharing your own views, ideas and opinions. No formal editorial policy to follow, except that of creating original, true and interesting content.
More rigid and formal. Based less on the authors own opinion.
Built around SEO keywords
Keywords not as important
Use links to build in actions for the reader ie. join an organisation, download a factsheet etc
Often more detail required as links to further information not used
Sourcing standards for online writing not as rigid
Sourcing requirements for print more rigorous
Web articles are more open to ‘real-time’ feedback from readers
Readers comments generally take longer to be heard
No editor involved; self-published
An editor cleans it up for you; published by a print magazine
Good writers will always be good writers regardless of whether they are writing for print or online. But knowing the differences in style, tone and format between the two will help us become great writers. There’s definitely a place for both. Understand the basic points of both and analyse them for your situation. If you feel that print writing is more better for you, go for it. And vice versa for web writing: go for it. Both are hard and both are easy. It depends on you, the writer. Your niche, your expertise, your gut instinct. Regardless of the medium you choose, enjoy your writing and strive to improve.
How to write online
Here is a more in depth look at how to write online in a useful downloadable format.
How To Write Online [.pdf, 300.00 kB]Download now