The following is a guest post by a blogger and freelancer I met online. Maria shares her views on writing for the web versus writing for print.
Let’s get this out of the way: they’re not the same thing. Saying the two writing styles are identical and interchangeable would be about as right as saying the same thing about twins (who would then find all sorts of wicked ways to confuse, humiliate, and aggravate you until you learned your lesson).
Storytelling versus Information-Spewing
Creative writing professors and experts expound on the importance of storytelling. If the piece of writing didn’t take you anywhere, what’s the bleepin’ point? Did you meet anybody interesting? Did someone get hit by a bus? Did anyone get to throw a pie? If none of these happened, it’s not a story, it doesn’t belong in print, and it should be shoved into an encyclopedia or diary.
Meanwhile, web surfers aren’t looking for stories—usually. They’re looking for facts. How many euros does it take to take a train from Florence to Rome? What movies feature alien invasions? Where can I get a turducken (a dish with a chicken in a duck in a turkey)? Unless someone faithfully reads your blog, they’re going to find your post in a keyword search, which means they’re on a mission and unless you answer their question in the first few sentences, they’re going to go searching elsewhere.
Think of it this way: when you write for print, write for someone sitting in front of a warm fire with a cup of tea. This reader wants to learn about you.
When writing for the web, write for a mouse-clicking kid on a sugar high. This child has absolutely no interest in your life story. He or she will only read 18% of your writing, so there’s no use adding pretty adjectives or exciting adverbs.
Whether you’re blogging for money or not (or blogging at all), you’ll need to consider key words when writing for the web, even in document titles and headlines.
Let’s say that instead of my current title, I’d called this post, “They’re Not Twins: Why Writing for Print and the Web Are Different.” What’s wrong with it (excepting its banality, for which I hope you forgive me)?
1. It’s too long. Unless you’re going to tongue in cheek, keep titles and headlines short. None of this, “In Which We Learn about the Ways Writing in Print Differs from Writing for the Web” nonsense.
2. Even if you’re a blogger and you have many devoted followers, some people will arrive at your site through a keyword search. How will your SEO improve without keywords? Place them at the very beginning of each title and headline. Twins have nothing to do with this post.
Exceptions Are Inevitable
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Many blogs and sites have long, deep posts meant to tell stories and relay emotional and psychological journeys. These are, however, a minority on the web. Most people on the Internet want one of four things: information, social contact, sensationalism, or laughs. If you can’t offer any of these quickly, take a breather and work on your craft. Read others’ web writing and see what you can learn.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer for onlinedegrees.org and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she’s been researching both the highest paying jobs and the lowest paying jobs on the market. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.