nSight Workshop
Writing & Editing
for the Web

Journalism Keys to Web Writing



Broadcast Model


Broadcast Checklist

Principles of Journalism  
Revising for the Web  



A Broadcast Writing Model
Excerpted from Nancy DuVergne Smith's "Writing for the Web"

Be concise. The length of a broadcast story is about one-third that of a print article. Cut every word that doesn't contribute.

Paragraphs are two-to-four sentences long. Use frequent paragraph breaks to refresh the eye.

Sentence pattern: subject-verb-object. You have more latitude on the Web, but keep structures simple so ideas are easy to digest.

One idea per sentence: one breath per idea. Restrain sentences to the 17-word print average.

Use present or present perfect tense. The Web is immediacy: Keep your text fresh: "The mayor proposes new rules" or "The mayor has proposed new rules."

Use short, familiar words. "Record profits" is clearer than "unprecedented increase."

Verb engines propel sentences. "She rammed the wall" rather than "she hit" uses the connotation as well as the denotation.

Focus on the big picture. Broadcast news omits most detail. Web documents should start with the big picture then invite readers to drill down for details.

Use logic links. In broadcast, you might cite the first event, the second event, the last event. On the Web, the logic links could be key words, icons, or images that orient the reader.

Use placement. Place significant words where they are most visible—at the beginning of headlines and in the first few and last few words of paragraphs.

Test your work. Read it aloud. Share it with others.



Web Options for Online Readability


Stage documents. A concise introductory page indicates the site's contents or self-definition then presents a branch of choices.

Each click should lead to substance. Clicking through page after page of obvious information or graphic fluff frustrates readers.

Use text links strategically. Highlighted links complement subheads as an organic table of contents. Group links to other sites at the document's end so readers are retained and rewarded.

Narrow the horizontal line length. Optimal line width is 8 to 12 words.

Use graphics to underscore the content. Studies show that TV messages are lost when images don't reinforce spoken words.





How Does This Site Rate Against the Broadcast Model?


MIT Alumni Association


Site Checklist


Headlines top pages?

Short paragraphs?

S-V-O sentence patterns?

Uses present or present perfect tense?

Uses short, familiar words?

Uses vivid, active verbs?

Initial screen load focuses on the key idea?

Uses logic links?

Stages content from general to complex?

Every page delivers useful content?

Narrow line width?

Graphics underscore content?






Principles of Journalism


Accuracy: the primary value of journalism.

Concision: every word counts.

Inverted pyramid: most important information at the top.

Name it: headlines, subheads, kickers name the information.

Timeliness: quick delivery of information.

Impact: information that matters to readers.






Revising for the Web

Use the inverted pyramid style to write a new lead—one or two paragraphs—for this article. The inverted pyramid puts the main point in the first paragraph.

For a quick review of inverted pyramid style, visit Jacob Nielsen's Useit site: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9606.html


Alternative Story Forms Are Effective
From Poynter Online: Everything you need to be a better journalist


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