A Web Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy

wwwIn October, I attended a workshop on writing for the web by Lanita Pace-Hinton. I took notes, and figured they might come in handy for fellow bloggers and online journalists. I know that there are many such guides out there (here?), but hey now there is one more (based on advice from a Berkeley Scholar)!


  • Build your brand. Build your audience by means of social media.
  • mediabistro.com – the largest online media site for journalists as well as a resource site and best practice suggestions (considered the most valued site of online journalism).
  • commoncraft.com -> RSS in plain English
  • Use Google Reader! Set up connection between your reader and your favourite sites. As a reporter, it is a great way to get information and a good time saver.
  • Fail fast and fail often. If it doesn’t work, move on.


  • Know your sources! When you share something, make sure that it is good quality. This will make your readers trust you.
  • Put yourself in the position of your reader. What kind of information does your reader want? How does the reader consume information? How does the readers read? It is all about serving the readers!
  • Visualize your readers. Who is your audience? Have a very defined audience in mind!
  • Describe one target in your community. When do they have time to read? On evenings and on Sundays – well, then have posts ready for them.


  • Be very specific and very conversational in your writing style. Be a person. Talk in your own voice.
  • Use an active voice. Have a personal, friendly and inclusive tone (like ‘What do you think?’).
  • Move away from the more formal style and structure of writing (it takes more confidence than it takes time).
  • Your writing should sound like you are talking/explaining to a friend. Don’t use very complex language, but rather simple language. And don’t be afraid to use current slang like ‘sweet’, ‘swag’, ‘nice’, ‘dig it’. This is not for everyone, but take a little risk. It does of course depend on what you are writing about. You don’t want to be too flip.


  • Typically, when readers are on the web, they have questions they need answers for. You have 100 words to get the message through. You want to have visual information: pics, hyperlinks, different text formats.
  • Readers want to construct their own experiences – they want to very quickly pick and choose.
  • There are 4 reasons why people are on the web:
  1. Information gathering (answering questions).
  2. Connecting with others.
  3. Entertainment.
  4. Commerce (a big reason why).


  • How do readers read on the web? They don’t! They scan. Like this:


Image found on 451 Marketing

  • So you want to have scannable content. What is scannable? Clear headlines, descriptive keywords, subheads, lists.
  • As regards headlines; start them with a keyword. BBC News are really good at writing headlines.
  • Think about how you write tweets: really concise, informative headlines.
  • Fact: after the first 100 words, you loose 25 % of readers. (Anyone still here?)
  • Turn the academic writing pyramid upside-down – write the important first.
  • Targets to aim at: headlines <8 words, sentences <20 words, paragraphs <70 words, pages <400 words.
  • Spend 10 minutes before you publish a post really thinking about if the information you share is of a high quality.


  • The 99 and 1 % rule: 90 % are lurkers – passive consumers, 9 % are active users, 1 % are the super users.
  • Invite people to share.
  • Always supply photos and videos with captions, titles and text – your audience should know what they are looking at/for.
  • Google is blind, so try to use keywords.
  • Only link to top content – link to relevant information, photo and video content. Describe the links adequately and make sure they work!
  • Structure your content: one idea per paragraph.


  • Always have fresh content on your page. Use RSS  feeds – you want to see your competition daily. Provide your audience with the best and most recent information on the topic. You can also use Google Alerts.
  • Provide relevant knowledge. Link to other sources. Show that you know something.
  • Create an editorial calendar. Fx. on Mondays and Thursdays blog about this. On Wednesdays about that. Maybe something lighter and funnier on Fridays. And home related stuff on Sundays, perhaps.


  • Write. Read. Edit. Curate. Set aside. Curate more. Proofread. Post.
  • Share on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Get yourself started on SEO with the Google SEO Starter Guide.


One True Way:

Make Something Great

Share It

Do It Again!

and use SEO.


3 thoughts on “A Web Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy”

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