8 mistakes online writers make, and how to fix them
The Online Journalism Blog has a checklist of eight things people should do while writing for the web, and if you write for the web you should print it out and tape it to your forehead.
Or better yet, your roommate’s forehead, so you can see it.
Parts of it read like a distillation of this blog. I don’t know about that eccentric use of the word “par” to mean paragraph—the usual journalistic abbreviation is “graf”—but other than that, it’s gold.
Here’s the checklist, presented with the heading “Are you doing the following?” Emphasis is in the original.
1. Getting straight to the most newsworthy, interesting piece of information in your first par?
2. Linking to your source whenever you refer to a piece of information/fact?
3. Linking phrases (e.g. “a report”) NOT putting in full URLs (e.g. “http://university.ac.uk/report”)?
4. Indenting quotes by using the blockquote option?
5. Using brief pars—starting a new one for each new point?
6. Using a literal headline that makes sense in search results and includes key words that people might be looking for, NOT general or punny headlines
7. Splitting up your article with subheadings?
8. Ending your post with a call to action and/or indication of what information is missing or what will happen next?
I don’t think No. 3 or No. 8 is much of an issue for Bleacher Report writers. Our stories rarely call for a “call to action,” though what will happen next is a great thing to end on.
I would go further than No. 5 and say you should start a new paragraph every two or three sentences at the most, ignoring whether you’ve moved on to a new point. One of the first things I learned in journalism, long before the web made short paragraphs even more important, was “Forget everything you learned in school about paragraphs. Break them up for ease of reading.”
The only time I consider “the point” in deciding on the length of a paragraph, I’m making it shorter, to emphasize a blunt or funny statement.
But this checklist, which is followed by a much deeper dive into each point, is a valuable resource. Give it a read, and then get the tape out.