Writing has evolved since the birth of the Internet, especially so in the past decade, as blogging has become more popular for sharing information and releasing news.
But it’s not just the medium that has changed; format, style and availability of information have all forced us to change the way we research, write and present information.
While it’s important for students to learn how to write academically, using indentation, traditional citation styles, and long-form paragraphs, they should also know what makes a great piece of content for readers who aren’t their teacher; people who may be scanning their blog, for example.
Create a poster reminding the students of these three online writing pillars so they can practice both styles of writing, preparing them for potential jobs in the business world.
When writing a blog post, it’s easy to surf the net for sources to back-up your arguments. However, students need to remember that not everything they find online is a valuable or reliable resource.
Therefore, the first pillar of online writing is: vet every resource. Here are a few questions students can ask themselves during the research process:
- Where did this article come from? Is it a credible source?
- Who wrote it? Is this person qualified to write about this topic?
- When was this article written? Older material may be out of date.
- Can you find similar information on another credible website?
The format for online writing has evolved to cater to people with short attention spans, which is nearly everyone—the average attention span of humans, as of this year, is 8.25 seconds.
The format of online content reflects this and students, especially those who are blogging, benefit from learning how to appeal to the online reading audience. Formatting specifics to remember include:
- Sub-headers: Use these to break up up the content, making it easier to scan.
- Short paragraphs: Large bulks of text often scare online readers away. Students should shorten paragraphs to reflect this.
- Social-media friendly: Images and videos make content more sharable. In an ever-growing world of bloggers, social media shares can make content visible, that would have otherwise gotten lost in the shuffle.
Rich content—images, videos, infographics, audio clips—not only makes blog posts more sharable, but it breaks up the monotony of text, which is something online readers want. Students should be taught how to find this rich content and imbed it into their blog posts and stories.
This could also lead to a lesson about basic HTML or coding, since often times, to imbed a YouTube video or infographic, you need to add a small snippet of code.
While academic writing skills are important, 21st century students need to prepare for the world they’re going into, a world where long-form writing is a thing of the past and finding reliable resources is getting harder and harder. Teach them the three pillars of online writing, and be sure to give them an opportunity to practice often by starting a class blog, using new writing tools like Whooo’s Reading and more.