COM0015, Assignment 5: Writing and Editing for the Web

I am a 25-year publishing professional—writing, editing, photographing, desktop publishing and managing newspapers, magazines and journals. The majority of my work has been in print and I have personally experienced the decline in this industry. To help me transition into online and social media platforms, I am taking various courses and seminars.

One such seminar was Writing and Editing for the Web through the Ottawa-Gatineau Branch of Editors Canada I read printed material differently than I read web pages and I don’t think I’m alone. I wanted to learn the difference so I could better use online platforms to meet my readers’ wants and needs.

Moira White of Ubiquitext and past president of Editors Canada presented the full-day seminar on Nov. 24. I was particularly interested in learning techniques that draw readers to web pages and creating engaging content to keep them there longer.

For Moira, the answer to my question of how people read online today is simple: They don’t! (How’s that for a quotable quote? lol) Most people skim for information.

As a November 2013 report showed (a reference was not provided), more people get information on their mobile devices than their laptop and desktop computers. Mobile devices have narrower columns of text, giving the illusion of longer, more intimidating paragraphs. I need to remember to provide bite-sized chunks of information in smaller paragraphs because of that one fact.

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During the Writing and Editing for the Web seminar for Editors Canada, Moira White explains how writers encode and readers decode information. Depending on the medium writers choose to share their messages, readers can provide feedback, creating a loop.

As well, people retain less information when reading online, which makes organizing information into small chunks and providing plenty of headings even more important.

Moira suggests writing for the web should answer only three questions in this order:

  1. What?
  2. So what?
  3. Now what?

This gets the take-home message out quickly and succinctly, then provides context before making a call to action.

She also suggests starting each paragraph with a topic sentence (remember those from grade school?) For those who don’t remember, the first sentence of each paragraph introduces what the rest of the paragraph will be about. If readers want more information, they will read it. If not, they go to the next paragraph.

Networking While Learning

Sitting at the table with me were Jean Forrest from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Nikki Burke from Statistics Canada. Most of our discussion was about change: in our work environments, in language and in technology. Although neither uses social media, I shared that I am taking Algonquin College’s Social Media certificate program in hopes to expanding beyond print. Because the program doesn’t cover the basics about how to use each social media platform, I’m reading Social Media for Writers: Marking Strategies for Building Your Audience and Selling Books (Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine, 2015). I pulled the book out of my purse as I was reading it on the bus, and they each wrote down the name.

I also talked with Tricia Diduch from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and Josephine Versace from the Government of Canada Translation Bureau during the lunch break. Along with talking about the seminar content, we discussed social media, Algonquin’s program and my search for social media basics and best practices. They were also interested in finding best practices and said they would talk with social media people in their offices and email me information, which I need to follow up about.

As an Editors Canada member, I get a $125 discount on each of their seminars. The majority of the six seminars I took last year and two I’ve already taken this year (I have one more in March), have been invaluable. I expect I will take more next year. I highly recommend them.

COMM 0015 Assignment # 5 Overwhelmed by Web Analytics

Analytics has become the new measurement tool for businesses. Increasingly, organizations are taking a data informed approach to make decisions on everything from where they advertise, to understanding who their customers are.

The information is fascinating, but can also be overwhelming, simply because there is so much data to dissect. I recently attended a professional development session on web analytics that helped me and my colleagues better understand areas of our web site that were performing well and others that were not.

From determining how long people were staying on our site to exploring where most of our visitors live, the information is very powerful. The challenge is to figure out what are the most important things we need to know. The facilitator said it best when he said, “You could easily bury yourself in analytics for days and still have more questions.”

Chris McFarlane gives Pembroke staff some Google Analytics training

I work at a community college and we are particularly interested in improving the web experience of prospective students. The web site is a primary recruitment tool, but with fierce competition from other colleges for the same students, our web site has to be more engaging then our competitors.

Web analytics is providing us with an opportunity to evaluate our site’s performance, while also providing us with other information that can help inform our marketing strategies. From search engine optimization performance to bounce rates, we are digging deeper to understand who our students are and what content gets their attention.

I’d love to hear how others are using web analytics? Please share your thoughts.

COMM0014 – Post 2 – Storytelling and Communication Styles

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So you want to become a successful digital writer? No problem. All you have to do is make your writing captivating and engaging by keeping these five things top of mind: write your content like you’re telling a story; create content that is clear and concise; be mindful of grammar, spelling and punctuation; use an active voice; and write with a style that encourages engagement and interaction.

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Digital writers face many challenges in their efforts to stand out in today’s world. For one, people are strapped for time and are easily distracted. Not only that, the digital age has made the competition fiercer than ever. Therefore your writing needs to capture their attention immediately – with a good story. Once you’ve done that, you need to make sure you don’t lose your reader through unnecessary content – be short and sweet. And even a good story won’t keep their attention if they become distracted and fed up by poor grammar and spelling (not to mention your loss of credibility). Using an active voice will help keep momentum in the story. And finally, you need to ensure you have a plan before you start writing. You want your material to provide your audience with an experience they will remember, something that will inspire them to take action.

Being a successful storyteller isn’t all about what you like. It’s also about identifying what your audience wants to hear – and they want to find it and hear about it in as short a time frame as possible. Oh, and once you become an expert at keeping their attention, make sure you provide an easy way for them to share your content and interact with you.

Are there any blogs that you actively engage in? I’d be curious to see what style is used to keep you engaged.