3 Ways the Internet Changed Writing and How to Adjust

Many novice copywriters are surprised to see how harshly their online content has been edited, but the fact is, writing found on blogs, websites, and online articles tends to be very different from more traditional types of writing. Online content is meant to appeal to a very broad audience, and as such, it’s usually structured differently than academic writing.

As a result, good online writers have found themselves ignoring some rules and creating others in order to create internet-friendly content. If you’re making any of the three mistakes listed below, it’s probably time for you to make a change:

Writing in Perfectly Structured Paragraphs

Remember what you were taught in elementary and middle school about how to structure a paragraph? Well, if you’re writing online content, it’s time to start ignoring those ideas. Gone are the days of the “introductory sentence- three to five sentences of supporting ideas- closing sentence” formula.

Good copywriters understand that online content needs to be structured differently. Online readers have an easier time digesting and paying attention to information that is broken up into smaller parts, so many writers choose to end their paragraphs after a single idea, often resulting in paragraphs that are only 1-3 sentences long.

This also means that opening and closing paragraphs are unlikely to be effective for online copy. Instead of an opening paragraph, talented writers understand that they need to create a “hook,” an enticing or interesting line that compels their site’s visitors to keep reading.

And instead of a closing paragraph, online copy writers often employ a single sentence, a “clincher.” This can serve a number of purposes, the most common of which are listed below:

  • To provide a brief summary of the ideas presented in the piece
  • To add a final, poignant comment that is likely to make a big impression
  • To steer the reader towards additional research
  • To ask a thought-provoking question

The clincher should be designed to help the reader remember your article.

Using Proper English 100% of the Time

As noted in this article, proper grammar is incredibly important, even in online content. Bad grammar makes it hard for your readers to take you seriously, and it could stain your reputation and alienate certain customers or clients. However, as they say, some rules are meant to be broken.

For example, sometimes it’s okay to start a sentence with a conjunction. Although technically grammatically incorrect, it is widely regarded as acceptable in certain situations. Starting a sentence with “but,” “and,” “or,” “yet,” or any other conjunction emphasizes the fact that the idea in this sentence is connected to an idea in the previous sentence. And it does so without creating a lengthy or confusing sentence, which can be burdensome.

Another example of a grammar rule begging to be broken in online copy is the prohibition against ending a sentence with a preposition. In academic writing, many writers find themselves rewording and restructuring their sentences to accommodate this rule.  In online copy, however, making such changes often makes the sentence sound confusing or stuffy. For example, it’s often best to choose something like “I don’t know which one she was referring to,” instead of “I don’t know to which one she was referring.” The latter sounds too forced, and it will detract from your content.

Sounding Pompous

This rule is closely associated with the one above. As mentioned previously, online readers are usually looking for easy-to-digest content. This means that they tend to be turned off by writers who use flowery, superfluous, verbose, or pompous language. (See what we did there?)

Often, writers feel the need to make themselves appear smarter by substituting academic words for conversational ones or by listing synonyms to ensure that their point is made. In most cases, both of these tactics are a mistake. If a simple word will suffice, use it. And rather than listing multiple synonyms, take the time to find the one word that conveys your message effectively.

Whether or not structured paragraphs and academic-style writing are appropriate for your online piece depends entirely on the type of website you run and the content you provide. In most cases, though, the above-listed mistakes will have a negative impact on your content and on the reader’s impression of you as a writer.

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