Simply put, writing is a communicative process; you, The Writer, have an audience with whom you are trying to connect on some level. It really doesn’t need to get any more complicated than that.
On the Internet, writing has devolved into attention-grabbing more than anything else: getting as many people as humanly possible to click that hyperlink, receiving a gazillion hits on your article—after that, who cares about the content?
You crave such attention. You crave fame. It’s understandable; I crave it, too. You imagine yourself as the next subject belched around the water cooler for a few seconds each morning. So what do you do? You hastily write up something about an overseas conflict or your commute to work this morning or the top ten ways to preserve your bellybutton lint or whatever, and you send it in. It gets published. You’re famous! There may be some mistakes or inherent flaws in the communication process, but who cares, right?
Content—and the way you present such content—does matter. Maybe you or your editors don’t care, so long as you get those page hits, but we—The Readers—do. Some of us actually read all of what you have to say, and we continue doing so, even if we waste accumulated hours of existence in the process. Why? Maybe we secretly have hope that you will one day change your tactics.
Our patience, however, is wearing thin. We unsubscribe from websites with such poor substance. We see your name—yes, your specific name—and avoid it at all costs. Is this what you really want in the long-run?
All we ask is that you slow down, take a deep breath, and follow these five simple techniques to improve your presentation:
1. Have a point.
Your readers should never have to ask, “Who the [expletive] cares?” Before you write anything down, decide what the purpose of your piece is. Are you trying to start a discussion on a socially relevant topic? Are you providing valuable information from which others could actually benefit? Are you some sniveling freshman composition instructor giving advice on how to write? Decide, and then build your article around that.
2. Provide context.
Do we have any idea what you’re talking about? Remember: on the Internet, you write for a general audience, not some small-town dive bar or an academic publication for experts on a particular subject. This isn’t your Cousin Becky’s picnic or the Journal of Paraplegic Arthropoda. We are the public. We cannot read your mind. Provide some background on your subject, please.
3. Use specific, concrete language.
The rest of us are sick of “I’m so sick of drama.” Use words that actually convey some sort of definite meaning for the rest of us. Once again, we cannot read your mind and we need to know exactly what you’re talking about. Additionally, avoid throwing out generalized clichés, like “Everything happens for a reason.” (As Jerry Lundegaard said, “What the heck do ya’ mean?”)
4. Understand basic rules of grammar, syntax, and spelling.
If you want people to take you seriously, then you need to fix those comma splices, make sure your pronouns and antecedents agree, and learn the difference between “everyday” and “every day” (as well as “your” and “you’re”). Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit websites like the Purdue Online Writing Lab or Grammar Girl. (Side note: Don’t rely on autocorrect to do the work for you, since it might just change a misspelled “definitely” to “defiantly.”)
5. Proofread your own work.
I am under the firm impression that many website editors do not read what they publish. I also believe that some online writers, like many Damn You, Autocorrect! celebrities, do not read what they write before hitting “Send.” Please review your own work before spreading it to the masses. Read it twice. Heck, read it thrice. This should work out most of the kinks before it gets published. (Unless, of course, your editors add mistakes to it during the copy-and-paste process.) Make sure that everything written down matches what you want to say. You’ll thank yourself later.