How to Write for the Internet

Matthew Donnellon

Photo by Stanley Dai on Unsplash

There are two things that I know how to do well. One is how to write, and the second…actually I really only know how to do one thing well.

But, I do know a lot about the first thing. I've been a professional writer for going on ten years and it's actually the only job I've ever had, The vast majority of it has been spent writing on the Internet, I started at the tale end of the blogging era's hey day and basically started during the rise of social media and the democratization of digital publishing,

Writing works best when it is tailored to fit the situation. Writing a blog post and novel the same way wouldn’t work. The internet demands that one write a certain way. The problem most writers are taught how to write papers and maybe a magazine artilcle. If you studied creative writing you mostly focused on writing books. Now this is changing with some colleges recognizing that digital writing is its own medium, but most of the time you'll be learning on your own.

This post should provide some insight.

Keep it Short

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” It’s from Hamlet but if it’s good enough for the Bard then it’s good enough for a blog. It also might be the truest writing advice ever written. The idea of a post is to provide information in short manageable chunks. So keep it simple.

The best way to do this is with short paragraphs. Books can have long passages, but blocks of text are hard to read on a computer screen. So be generous with the return key.

Keep the sentences short too. This is good writing advice in general but it’s worth repeating. If you ramble about things, then you risk coming incoherent and confusing. Don’t be afraid of declarative sentences. They punctuate the prose and make it more interesting.

I can't stress this enough. People's attention span's are growing shorter by the minute. Heck, it's hard to get people to read an entire Twitter post. So you have to make it count and make it count quick, but the clock starts the second people open the story.

Break Up the Page with Headings

As much as I don’t like to admit it, most people just scan the article. Some of you probably did it to this article. You know who you are.

Sub-heading let people get to the information they want. Then they can move on to all the other great post you’ve written.

Keep it Conversational

People should want to read it. If it sounds like a legal brief or a lab report, then no one will go near it. But, if it has a light, casual, tone then people will read it eventually. Especially if you’re doing the other things discussed here.

Find Your Voice

Most writing disciplines: copywriting, legal writing, science writing, all have certain guidelines in which you must work. Writing on the internet, especially for your own blog, has fewer restrictions. You can put a little personality into your writing. I wouldn’t go too far, unless you’re Drew Magary and you can pull if off. It’s more important to get the information across. But, it’s fine to be witty. It makes it more interesting. Over the years I’ve developed a relatively jocular style with generous use of humorous parentheticals (like this).

It goes with the points above, There are a ton of writers on the Internet and you need to stand out.

Keep these these tips in mind and they should help you out.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI

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