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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Keep it short, sharp and to the point

The ever-readable Paul Bradshaw kicked off a series on online journalism basics recently with the importance of brevity - both for writing and for multimedia.

It's a good point that can't be made too often so here it comes again - as succinctly articulated by Paul:

  • The web is different. It is not print, it is not television, it is not radio. So why write content for the web in the same way that you might write for a newspaper or a news broadcast?
  • Shorter articles tend to work better online because most people struggle to read long documents on screen, or find scrolling too much hassle if they’re looking for something specific or succinct.
  • Within the article itself, paragraphs should be succinct. Stick to one concept per paragraph. Once you’ve made your point, move on to the next par.
  • Brevity is equally important when producing multimedia material. For the medium that brought us YouTube, anything over three minutes is too long.
  • Brevity works well online because it allows for more effective distribution: others can link to the specific element they are commenting on, or even embed it on their site.
  • What’s more, it provides the raw material for further journalism: a user might decide to re-edit the material to provide a different narrative; or mash it up with maps or databases; or they might incorporate it into further investigation into a particular issue - all of which further distributes your good name, and provides further material for you to build on.