When I first went into print journalism, 15 years ago, I hadn’t heard of blogs. I’m not even sure they’d been invented then.
My sights were set on Fleet Street, but it’s funny how technology slams one door shut, only to open a window elsewhere. Fleet Street became a virtual workplace but IT has created so many new opportunities for writers and writing for the internet.
For a start, I can sit in my kitchen writing this post and I don’t even need a fax machine and a long list of phone numbers to get it distributed.
And while newspaper readership has been declining for decades, the amount of space on the internet that needs filling with words is expanding.
I was tempted to add the word exponentially there, but an imaginary sub-editor still sits on my shoulder, whispering – “Can you justify that word?”
And that’s one of the things that haven’t changed, thankfully for a pedant like me. The old skills and standards that were drummed into me at journalist school, and again in regional newspapers, still stand me in good stead when writing for the internet.
- Deadlines When an ex-journalist says they’ll have 500 words to you by close of play today, you know they’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. If you missed a newspaper deadline, your fantastic story would be spiked along with your reputation.
- Structure Storytelling needs a logical order and all the key facts laid out clearly. You don’t want to read a Joycean flow of consciousness when you’re trying to find out which is the best lawnmower for you.
- Grammar It may seem a little old-fashioned for the Web but the first function of writing is communication. If we writers don’t use the same conventions as readers, our message won’t be clear.
- Proof Reeding Did you spot the deliberate mistake? Spelling or typing errors in your marketing blurb undermines your authority and muddies your message.
Good internet writing is a craft, not an art
A degree in English is all very useful, but if you want your writing for the internet delivered when and how you want it, hire someone with some journalistic experience.