Routledge

Chapter Overviews

Book Cover

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11

Chapter 1: On Writing Well

After studying this chapter, you will understand how to:

  • Use the basic rules of good writing
  • Determine the intended audience and write specifically for that audience
  • Apply the fundamentals of grammar, style, and usage correctly
  • Avoid common writing problems

Whether a person is writing a news story, novel, letter-to-the-editor or advertising copy, the principles of good writing are the same. Different media place different burdens and responsibilities on writers, but the reason behind writing is always to communicate ideas in your head to an audience through words. Does Professor Homi K. Bhabha’s sentence above communicate his ideas clearly? Can you understand what he means by efforts to normalize the disturbance of a discourse of splitting? Perhaps that’s why this sentence was awarded second prize in the annual “Bad Writing Contest.” Bad writing, like Bhabha’s prize-winning example, obfuscates and confuses; it promotes misunderstanding and perhaps even apathy. This chapter provides a foundation for good writing, including sections on grammar, spelling and punctuation, as it aims to help students identify weaknesses in their writing, then to offer help and resources to improve in those weak areas.

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Chapter 2: New Media versus Old Media

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Understand the similarities and differences in reading styles for Web audiences and print media audiences
  • Evaluate credibility in digital media
  • Write in such a way that facilitates online reading through scanning
  • Encourage and enhance readership through interactive, multimedia pages
  • Explain what XHTML is and how it works

In this chapter writing for the Web and the credibility of information on the Web are compared with writing for and credibility in traditional print media. Web users do not merely read online content, they interact with it, because unlike print media, online media are not static or one-way, or at least they shouldn’t be. Hypertext allows this interaction, or “reading,” to be non-hierarchical and non-linear, more like entering a matrix and moving around within it than reading left to right, line by line. “Writers of hypertext . . . might be described as the designers and builders of an information ‘space’ to be explored by their readers,” Carolyn Dowling wrote in 1999, when new media were in fact new. Interactivity, multimedia, space-building and the credibility of these information spaces are the emphases here. HTML and XHTML, the languages of Web page construction, are also introduced.

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Chapter 3:  Screen Writing: Online Style and Techniques

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Understand how writing techniques and style should be informed by the online environments in which the content will be presented
  • Plan, organize and test content for an interactive audience, and help that audience navigate to and through the information
  • Cultivate a sensitivity to the global reach of the Web and the implications of that reach in producing content that can be quickly, readily apprehended

In this chapter we discuss how to plan and map sites, pages and content before zeroing in on the content itself, when the chapter then shifts to a discussion of style in three dimensions – general online style, writing style (and tone), and visual style. To help clarify the style guidelines and how they become manifest in pages, we look at a few case studies.

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Chapter 4: Headlines and Hotlinks: The Electronic Essentials

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Write effective headlines, deckheads, sub-heads and sub-subheads
  • Use hyperlinks correctly to organize information, facilitate navigation and help users access information
  • Organize information in lists, both ordered and unordered, and better understand what kinds of information lend themselves to lists
  • Understand how essays, long writing and text-intensive stories and articles should be presented online

In the last chapter, we explored online style, writing style and visual style. We drill down further in this chapter by discussing in the context of style some specific writing techniques such as hyperlinks and headlines, and how these techniques can help readers navigate in and through our content. Other tools to facilitate scanning and surfing include “chunking” text – breaking text down into smaller, usually paragraph-sized chunks – and presenting sub-heads, deck-heads and lists. Also considered are how to break up and present longer writing pieces.

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Chapter 5:  Know Your Audience

 After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Participate in site and page planning
  • Understand audience needs and how to satisfy them
  • Plan how to attract users to a site and keep them coming back for more
  • Create and use style guides
  • Ensure quality control for a site

The best publications are those that are most relevant to the people they aim to serve. In this chapter, the focus is on audience, on learning as much as possible about the information needs, sensitivities, interests and objectives of a desired audience, and on planning and building spaces for specific audiences. Deep knowledge of our audience should inform how we build out our Web sites and fill them with content. To guide site planning, we also discuss how to develop an audience-specific style guide, adherence to which ensures a site of consistency and, for our audiences, familiarity.

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Chapter 6: Getting It Right: Online Editing, Designing and Publishing

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Explain the fundamentals of online editing and publishing
  • Understand the responsibilities of the editor
  • Understand the process of publishing online
  • Begin editing online content  

The theory of Gestalt holds that the whole is different from than the sum of its parts. To ensure the quality of the whole online, we have to inspect and evaluate all of the parts. Each and every element on a Web page should be scrutinized, from the dominant graphic to the text in navigational icons, bars and buttons. Headers and hyperlinks have to be checked, as do copyright notices, words in graphics and illustrations, photo credit lines and all headlines and subheads. The immediacy of online might lead us to assume that editing for the Web means less attention to detail, less time spent checking, re-checking, verifying and vetting, when in fact the complexity of online media means that there has never been more to inspect.

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Chapter 7:  Blogito, Ergo Sum: Trends in Personal Publishing

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Identify the principles of personal publishing
  • Understand the blog format and why it has proliferated
  • Describe blogging’s roles in journalism
  • Harness good blog writing practices 

The democratization of the tools of publishing by the Web has been nothing less than revolutionary in terms of its effects on and implications for society, culture and mass media. “Citizen journalism,” personal publishing, including blogging, and desktop publishing are re-shaping media and re-defining roles and job descriptions throughout journalism and communication. This chapter focuses especially on blogs, the most popular format or dimension of personal publishing, a format that has brought the cost of writing for the Web to the vanishing point. As part of the broader trend toward participatory, networked grass roots journalism, blogs are influencing how products are introduced, how political campaigns are run and even how wars are fought.

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Chapter 8:  We the People, Part I: Citizen Journalism

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Analyze case studies to understand how news sites are engaging readers and seeking to include them in online communities
  • Understand how online community is enabled and maintained
  • Explain how the architecture of the Internet and Web sites affects the nature of community, communication and the sharing of content
  • Discuss the potential of social networking for news

In addition to the participatory journalism model discussed in the last chapter, professional newsrooms are exploring many other ways to increase interactivity on their Web sites. This chapter will explore a wide range of these approaches that seek to move beyond merely presenting news to readers and toward engaging readers in a conversation. Some of these approaches to increasing interaction between news outlets and news users include allowing users to customize the site; opening up to users databases such as those for public spending or of restaurant and hotel reviews; providing extended coverage not possible or available in print or on air; and administrating bulletin boards and chat. The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., for example, built a database for its BizFinderNW.com site, which offers any area business a listing with address, store hours, a map and a photo, all for free. Businesses wishing to add more or to determine placement can pay.

Methods like BizFinderNW.com are part of the transition from the one-way, journalist-centered monologues (or lectures) traditionally presented in newspapers to a more audience-centered conversation between news outlets and their readers, and among the readers themselves. This new conversational model of journalism seeks to serve by going beyond just presenting the news to engaging readers and building relationships with the communities they serve.

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Chapter 9: We the People, Part II: News as Conversation

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Analyze case studies to understand how news sites are engaging readers and seeking to include them in online communities
  • Understand how online community is enabled and maintained
  • Explain how the architecture of the Internet and Web sites affects the nature of community, communication and the sharing of content
  • Discuss the potential of social networking for news

In addition to the participatory journalism model discussed in the last chapter, professional newsrooms are exploring many other ways to increase interactivity on their Web sites. This chapter will explore a wide range of these approaches that seek to move beyond merely presenting news to readers and toward engaging readers in a conversation. Some of these approaches to increasing interaction between news outlets and news users include allowing users to customize the site; opening up to users databases such as those for public spending or of restaurant and hotel reviews; providing extended coverage not possible or available in print or on air; and administrating bulletin boards and chat. The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., for example, built a database for its BizFinderNW.com site, which offers any area business a listing with address, store hours, a map and a photo, all for free. Businesses wishing to add more or to determine placement can pay.

Methods like BizFinderNW.com are part of the transition from the one-way, journalist-centered monologues (or lectures) traditionally presented in newspapers to a more audience-centered conversation between news outlets and their readers, and among the readers themselves. This new conversational model of journalism seeks to serve by going beyond just presenting the news to engaging readers and building relationships with the communities they serve.

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Chapter 10: Getting Down to Business: Intranets, Extranets, Portals

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Determine the appropriate writing styles for online business communication
  • Identify trends in intra-organization communication via the Internet
  • Understand how intranets, extranets and portals function, and how they are different

Intranets, extranets and portals are among the most important online information spaces in business today, particularly for U.S. companies. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and together all three are part of an evolution in online business communication that began quite innocently with e-mail. The goal of this chapter is to help students understand these unique business communication arenas. While many of the general online writing skills discussed in this book will apply to these spaces as well, this chapter will also introduce some of the special writing requirements that intranets, extranets and portals demand.

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Chapter 11: Learning the Legal Landscape: Libel and Privacy in a Digital Age

After studying this chapter, you will be able to

  • Understand the legal contexts in which Web writers gather information and in which they publish, including the limits on and freedoms for both activities.
  • Discuss how privacy law has changed in and for a digital age.
  • Know the basics of libel law as it applies to publishing in general and, more specifically, to publishing via or to the Web.
  • Explain the basics of intellectual property law as it relates to digital content.
  • Analyze the tensions in the law as competing interests vie for priority.
  • Appreciate the implications of international law for publishing on a global medium.

Internet communication and publishing has introduced new tensions in the law. Decisions and policies are being made within the content, electronics and computer industries about how to protect copyrighted material in digital media and how to protect the information privacy of citizens more vulnerable to privacy invasion, fraud and identity theft. The Internet as a global publishing tool created the potential jurisdiction of 190 countries, which complicated the already confusing area of libel law.

This chapter focuses, therefore, on media law as it relates to writing for digital media, but it in no way is meant to offer a comprehensive survey of all law related to press and to media. After exploring the rights of access to information, the chapter looks at two of the more intractable problems in American society generally and for publishers of digital media specifically – privacy and libel. Finally, the chapter addresses new intellectual property questions raised of the law by digital content, or content that is easily copied, stolen, shared and distributed.

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