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  1. 1. Writing for the web George Brock Professor and Head of Journalism City University London Wellcome | September 2013
  2. 2. ????? • What’s the difference between writing on • …the wall • …paper • …the web • …for radio • There are things that change; but some stuff doesn’t • The intriguing thing about writing for the web is the interplay of new and old
  3. 3. “writing for the web” • The purpose, clarity and force of the writing is more likely to determine its persuasiveness than the medium or the platform
  4. 4. What the web changes (1) • Quantity of information in circulation • Velocity at which it moves • Sense that there’s less time to consume it • Sound and pictures almost as easy as words • Flow: frictionless peer-to-peer swopping • Clear sense-making, narrative and ideas will be more valued as the world generates more information
  5. 5. Quantity, velocity, flow • In 2008, Google was crawling 1tn web pages; in 2013, the total is 30tn. • A hour of video footage is uploaded to YouTube every second. • During the airing of the Japanese anime film “Castle in the Sky” in 2011, Twitter counted 25,000 tweets sent per second. • (See Out of Print: Newspaper, Journalism and the Business of News, published by Kogan Page • http://www.koganpage.com/editions/out-of-print/9780749466510)
  6. 6. What the web changes (2) • Our whole relationship – and therefore attitude – to information… • Less need to learn by heart or record • Easier to get to what you want quicker • Easier to manipulate (neutral or bad sense) • Greater need for navigation • Greater need to know what to trust • Alters the tension between voice and authority • Text + audio-visual = new storytelling syntax
  7. 7. http://www.theverge.com/2013/9/25/4766878/ jeff-bezos-interview-amazon-kindle-hdx
  8. 8. Therefore the dilemma is: • Putting words out there is easier than ever • Getting people to take notice is harder than ever
  9. 9. Old truth • “Writing” is only one part of impact and effectiveness • Writing is part of a larger whole: editorial “personality” • The tone of a publication is not just the words • Also in the mix: layout, typography, pictures, ratio of words and pictures, colour – and how these are all blended and combined.
  10. 10. Old tricks for new or old dogs (1) • Tell it through people • Tell it in detail that readers can see and feel • Tell it in a simple order • Plain, clear and straight never fails
  11. 11. Science/medicine hazards • Academic journal custom and practice • Factual, authoritative = impersonal • Technical language • Intellectual arrogance (or…the reader does the work)
  12. 12. Old tricks (2) • Don’t call a spade a primitive digging implement • If possible alternate short + long sentences • Test writing on readers • Ration sub-clauses • The verb is the motor of the sentence • Better: the verb drives the sentence • Shoot clichés on sight • Comb, correct, sift, shorten, show-and-tell
  13. 13. Form a new habit: interrogate • The work of others: – Why does it work? – How does it work? • Your work: – Does it have… • Voice/attitude • Tone • Fluency • Structure • Clarity • Sense of purpose • Grasp
  14. 14. Never be out of reach of answers to these questions: •What am I doing? •Why am I doing it?
  15. 15. • @georgeprof • www.georgebrock.net