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Writing on the Web is Like Writing on Paper But The Rules Change

My buddy, Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface has written a fabulous article, “From Paper To Web”, which tackles an issue I’ve dealt with myself and many clients: Going from paper to the web.

I don’t want to elaborate on the debates or dos and don’ts, but the technical aspects of a newspaper journalist moving to online publishing interests me as a software professional. I have seen a couple of my writer friends who have stuck to the print format while writing online…this time I want to target the differences between an article published on paper and on the Web that a journalist has to be aware of.

Naturally, the first place to look for is the differences in the print and the Web media, differences between reading an article on paper and reading it online.

There are a lot of differences between printed media and web media, and Nadgouda gets it very right.

Nagouda outlines the biggest differences, which impact thinking and writing as well as design, as hyperlinking, resources and references, the issue of a “complete article” versus a “running dialog” based upon reader feedback, article life, technological distinctions, spam, copyright infringement (the hassles of the web not found in most print media), including multimedia options, and more.

Nadgouda sums the differences up beautifully:

Writing on Web is not very different from writing on the paper, just that some rules change.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

One Comment

  1. Posted November 23, 2007 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Interesting post. I’ve just started my blog actually, and there’s only one post on it, so I’m not exactly trying to attract readers until I have at least 3 more. I’m a journalist during the day. Most of the blogs I read are political blogs written by magazine columnists (like Matt Yglesias). The writing doesn’t differ greatly from what they publish in print, but there are some subtle differences.

    Coming to your site, which is great by the way, has shown how drastically writing styles can differ from print media to electronic media.

    When I submit an article to the copydesk, there can’t be spelling mistakes, structural errors or poor grammar. It’s easy to get in strife when you force the copy editor to act as co-writer of a piece. A five hundred word article for print can take anywhere between five and twenty-four hours of work, in total, depending on the content – an advertorial for example would require less work because the facts don’t need to be so thoroughly checked.

    I’ve posited my blog as an online alternative to local and provincial news media outlets. Essentially, I intend to run stories I’ve pitched that haven’t been accepted in print – at least, the ones I think are good copy.

    The blog will live or die on content. I can’t imagine putting up three or four posts a day that just reference another media outlet. However, I think I’ve got a bit of work to do with writing style: the ‘running dialogue’ issue is very important, as I’m used to presenting a complete article. I want to put up complete articles, but I don’t want to turn potential readers away because the articles seem too inaccessible or impersonal.

    Thanks for the excellent posts, by the way.

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