Writing Tips for Articles on LGF Pages
This page is intended as a sort of appendix to Randall’s LGF Pages Style Tips Updated: State Run Media and Agitpropaganda outlets.
Most of you here at LGF are intelligent, articulate, and well educated, but it never hurts to review best practices. This is especially true when writing for the web, because reading behavior on the web tends to be quite different than it is for print media.
Here’s a sampling of links I’ve found useful:
Lifehacker - An article was posted today titled Top 10 Tips for Better Writing. Some of the tips are obvious, yet often overlooked, while others are new (to me).
Copyblogger - This is a very good resource that’s geared specifically towards writing for the web with marketing in mind, but the advice is invaluable nonetheless—after all, we are marketing ideas & opinions here. A good starting point is Copywriting 101: An Introduction to Effective Copy.
Jakob Nielsen - Mr. Nielsen’s essays on Writing for the Web have some very good info, though not all of it applies to the types of articles we write here. You’ll notice that some of the essays are old, however they’re still relevant.
A List Apart - The content writing section has—in addition to standard fare like How to Write a Better Weblog—some very interesting articles that delve into the relationship between the web content author and his/her audience. If you want to establish a rapport with the people who read LGF (as opposed to just bashing them over the head with your opinion or driving traffic to your own blog), then I think you’ll find them well worth your time.
Putting Our Hot Heads Together is an excellent article for both authors AND commenters. I especially like the parts below, and the bulleted lists of advice that follow the first two paragraphs (left out due to space & fair use considerations):
Axing the argue-net
If we view discussion areas as a new tool, and enter with a new attitude—seeing one another not as adversaries but as allies with a common goal— we can achieve so much more. If more of us are thinking “What can I contribute?” instead of “Did I like this article?” the entire conversation is transformed.
The cool kids’ table
The real challenge is to move beyond basics to something much more fruitful, communal and, at times, visionary. The best brainstorms require a sense of being on the same side—and of the freedom to go to the very edge and even topple over it without fear of losing the respect of our peers. Let’s give each other that freedom—and let’s use it, and not hold back. If we were sitting with friends at a conference (or barroom) table, what exciting places could we take the discussion? What could we achieve? How can we inspire each other? Here are a few ideas; please chime in with your own.
True, there will be times when someone needs to just say straight out that the author’s premise has no merit. But, as with the world’s most dangerous question, “Do I look fat in these pants?” it’s the very carefully chosen reply, given in the right spirit, that brings the best reward at the end of the day. Find a way to make your point, while moving us forward.
Your enthusiastic comments—whether said in agreement or not—may even encourage more people to submit their own articles (or comments) to one of the web magazines or communities, improving the quality of what we read. Some brilliant thinkers among us, some great talents, and some just plain old nice people have been leaving comments that earn their keep, that are as worthy of being read as the article itself.
Think, too, of the hundreds of people who don’t comment or write articles because they don’t want to be subject to sarcastic barbs. They have something to throw into the mix, yet hesitate, wondering if they’ll be called a fool. This isn’t Thunderdome, folks; it’s a magazine. When someone enters, offer them a cushion and a cool drink, and gently coax them to reveal more of their thoughts. Why not?
Gentle Reader, Stay Awhile; I Will Be Faithful focuses on building trust with your audience and earning their respect:
Every opening paragraph is the beginning of a delicate and transient relationship between reader and writer. This relationship begins quietly, usually without much fanfare—and if it’s properly initiated, the reader doesn’t even know it’s happening. Yet the success of this relationship is an important factor in creating an enjoyable, engaging experience for the reader. This is especially true on the web where author credibility can be difficult to establish, and where, increasingly, readers have so many choices that separating the chaff from the wheat can be a daunting process.
Like the queen, online readers tend to have little patience. This is due to several factors, not the least of which is that unless the reader knows my work, he doesn’t necessarily know if he can trust me, and he is wary of investing in a relationship that might not work out for him. People do still tend to view online media with more skepticism than print media, and often this skepticism is warranted. In order to earn my reader’s trust, in order to convince him to “stay awhile,” I must be faithful.
To be a faithful writer is to form a clear mental picture of that reader and speak to him as a real person. A faithful writer keeps at the forefront of her mind that she is writing for someone, that her work is only truly completed in the reader himself. A faithful writer makes the reader glad he stayed.
It is important that I honor not only my reader’s time, but his intelligence and interests as well. If I am writing an advanced or specialized article, I am not going to pepper my work with links to basic articles or very popular sites my reader has likely already visited. Part of my job is to unveil something new and interesting, to offer something to pique his curiosity. I want to take my reader places he will enjoy visiting; I want to be a worthy tour guide in all aspects of the subject we are exploring together. I can’t do that if I underestimate his knowledge or inquisitiveness. As a show of good faith, I want to reveal something of myself, something I find compelling. I want to show him a piece of the web that he might not have found on his own. In this way, I not only earn his trust by honoring his intelligence and his time, I also earn his respect by showing him something he may find impressive or fulfilling.