Introduction to Web Writing
Lesson 1 of Web Writing unit
What is Web Writing?
The Internet can be seen as many things, not the least of which is a book, cross referenced and linked through thousands of channels of data that flow across the screens of millions of computers. All the people who contribute to this massive collaboration are writing for the web.
Why write for the web?
Why do we do it? What is the attraction of writing on the Information Super-Highway? It is, as this document is, instant gratification. We can see the things that we have written and know that they are online as soon as we click the "Save" button. That is all it takes now in this world of electronic literacy: merely to save it and we have done our part. No longer do we have to wait as a publishing house mulls over the good points and the bad of our manuscripts. A hundred thousand people can see our thoughts in the blink of an eye. If they search Google long enough they can see this very article. It could be how you found it. Writing for the web confers a sort of instant immortality in an increasingly anonymous world.
Writing for the web is the next big thing. It will carry us into the next hundred years and beyond. All the communication technologies that we have seen on Star Trek and other such shows start here. This is the dawning of a new era. Wanna be a pioneer? This is where the wagons are taking off from.
Who are we?
Welcome to the online home of the Web Writer's Guide, a society where teaching the Internet is not just for the Saturday evening adult education courses. This is the real thing. Take some time to think about all the things that you have written and submitted to the Internet without breaking a sweat.
This course will be written in wiki format. For those of you who are new to the process, this is it. No indenting, links all over the place. It's the ugliest and most beautiful form of writing that mankind has come up with. As a teacher of English, I have come to realize that content is more important than the way the writing looks. To that end, I have formatted this course to look like what I will be talking about. This is a FacePage to a discussion on the writing that can be found on the net. By clicking on the top tab that says "Discussion," students will be able to interact on a level that is much deeper than that of a reality classroom. Think of it, a method of discourse that is immediately changeable and easily shaped through the work of others.
What's the Difference?
Writing for the web is simply not the same as writing for print. The first and most obvious difference is interactivity. With a printed page, one cannot simply click away to the most interesting link. Instead, there is a linear progression which proceeds from a logical ordering of the subject matter, usually starting with chapter one and becoming increasingly complex as the text progresses.
Some rules of thumb
The Web is nonlinear, meaning that the reader enters and departs from any number of locations. In practical terms this means that your writing has to be:
- Short and sharp. Use short sentences and break up long paragraphs. If you lose the reader's attention, something more interesting is only a click away.
- Structured in a nonlinear hierarchy. This means that each piece must stand at least semi-independently from foregoing and following content.
- Navigable. With the printed page, you can go forward and backward, according to the authors' intentions. With web writing, the reader decides how, when, and where to navigate through the entire online text. Through devices such as headers and links, web writers encourage navigation.
- Interactive. You can yell at your television all you like, but you're unlikely to influence the course of events shown. The web is different. It is immediate and it is not only one way. On the contrary, readers can, do, and should influence the content, tone, format, and presentation of the information. A fine example of this is a wiki. If you don't agree, just click edit, and modify this very text.