BEYOND THE PYRAMID
Writing Styles for the Digital Age
• Digital Marketing Manager for American Family
• Experienced Blogger, e-marketing/technology
columnist, and author
• Former publisher of the Business Owner’s
Toolkit (www.toolkit.com) and host of
nationally-syndicated radio show of the same
• More 5 years as partner in a $40 million
USE THE WEB
• Activities of Regular/Occasional users
– 91% Research
– 80% Getting info about products to buy
– 76% Get news
– 75% Banking
– 56% Make purchases
– 36% Listen to music
Level of interest varies by user and topic:
– Scanning (80-85%)
• Just the title/headline
• Just the Abstract
• First Paragraph
• Major points
– Reading (15-20%)
• Minor points
• Detailed Interest
• Where can I learn more?
• Multilevel Writing caters appropriately to
all levels of interest.
• The goal is to simultaneously provide a
great experience for scanners and readers
• Create Meaningful Subheads
• Use Bulleted lists and jump lists
• Use Tables and Charts
• One idea per paragraph
• Shorter paragraphs
• Start with the Conclusion
An article that is unseen can is preferable to
an article that is uninteresting.
– No News is Good News. Work hard to
be avoided by those who don’t want to
– Write clear and informative titles
– Provide accurate descriptions and
keywords for search engines
– Don’t try to appeal to everyone
LEVEL I: SCANNING
Scanning isn’t an insult, it’s a reality. Web readers
rarely read. 80% of the time, they’re just
– Write meaningful Titles and Headlines
– Write meaningful Abstracts that aren’t
– Use Subheads to emphasize major points
– Use bulleted lists to summarize minor points
– Use indents to show transitions from major
points to minor points
LEVEL II: READING
The act of reading your article on the Web,
means they’re already interested.
Don’t let them down.
– Use an open, natural and uncontrived
– Avoid techno-speak, buzzwords and Jargon
– Share Your Experience, Your Opinion, Your
Dissenting Argument, Your Perspective and
Your Sense of humor.
– Make it a Social Experience
• Reading and writing is a social act.
• The social aspect is amplified:
– Internet content is “opt-in”
– Internet content is search driven
– Internet content is more interactive
(“Click and explore”)
– Social and commercial venues are blended.
(More gray area, less distinction)
• Writing for the Web requires you to consider how the
reader will react.
• A Social Model for Writing can be the most effective
model for writing online
• Time and distance are Barriers
Your article may serve as the only point of
contact between a reader and yourself.
• Transferring Knowledge is Inexact
Writers seldom write exactly what they mean
and readers seldom interpret a writer's words
exactly as the writer intended.
• Understanding is Influenced by Context.
Understanding of an article is based on factors
Not only your respective purposes, influences,
and understanding of each other, but also the
physical, social, cultural, and historical contexts
in which reading and writing take place.
Given the natural laws at work, you should
Approach writing with several questions in
• What is Your Purpose?
• What Influences You?
• What Do Reader's Want?
• What Influences Readers?
• What Author/Readers Know about each other?
• What is the Context?
• Understanding your purposes can help you in
virtually every aspect of writing.
• Knowing what you want to accomplish will help:
– you select your topic
– consider your readers' needs and interests
– choose appropriate evidence to support your
• It will also help you with decisions regarding
tone, style, and document design.
• What are your beliefs and values on the topic?
• What is your level of knowledge?
• What are your requirements?
• What are your limitations?
• What are your opportunities?
– Good resources?
– Personal Experience?
– First-hand knowledge?
• What resources are at your disposal?
• Readers are motivated to read by their
perceived benefit for doing so
• Understanding what your readers want helps
you create a great article.
• What can readers “walk away with”?
• What gives this article longevity?
• What keywords/phrases are related to the
• What is the popularity of article-related
• What is the desired keyword density?
Readers will be influenced by a number of
– Level of Interest
– Desire to be informed/entertained
– Values & Beliefs
• Journalists tend to underestimate their
– Their level of interest
– Their level of knowledge
– Their ability to understand
• A Social Model of Multilevel writing allows
you to presume the reverse and provide
“opt-out” points for individuals who seek
KNOW of EACH OTHER?
• It’s important to accurately represent yourself
and your audience.
• Are you an observer or an expert?
• Are you providing opinion or fact?
• Are you writing for people who already know
the topic, or for someone without any
Credibility can be dubious online.
It’s important to define the context of messages
to ensure they aren’t misinterpreted.
WHAT IS THE CONTEXT?
What physical, social and cultural differences
can affect your ability to communicate with
• The Internet has millions of readers. It’s
easy to underestimate the implications of
location, society and culture.
• Great web writing a conversation between an
“approachable expert” or “approachable
observer” and the reader
– It’s Informational
– It’s Social
– It’s more one-to-one, than one-to-many
• Learning to write in a conversational tone isn’t
a trick. There is more “unlearning” than
learning involved for writers.
• You don’t need to dumb-down to readers.
Assume intelligence instead of a lack thereof
• Journalist • Ad Copywriter
– Newspapers are – Target Market
– Individual Stories Tone
– “Above the Fold”
concept translates – Purpose-Driven
well – Context Sensitive
– The Head
– The Lead
– Inverted Pyramid
BOTH SKILLS ARE REQUIRED