Writing online can be very different than writing for print. Many articles and stories that are made for online reading are written to a slightly different set of rules than they would be if they were printed. Molly Snyder provided some tips on making impactful, lasting, and interesting online writing, most of which boil down to making your writing as concise and punchy as possible.
I read an article by MIAD graduate Brooke Steiner titled “When creative expression causes controversy.” The article was a good length-- not overly long or too short, and broken up well by relevant photographs. The paragraph sizes and simple language of the article fulfil Snyder’s first writing tip: make it “short and to-the-point.”
The second tip, “Write in the Active Voice” is also done; and example of it would be in the sentence “"The Unsung Hero" has received very mixed reviews due to the woman in the mural not having a head.” Writing in the active voice helps the readability of sentences like this one by giving a solid subject, verb, and object.
The third tip from Snyder is “Put the main info first.” The article fulfills this well by providing a clear opening overview of the article’s contents and message before expanding on it. The next tip, which advocates the use of subheads for particularly long articles in order to break it into more manageable sections, wasn’t used by the article. It wasn’t long enough to warrant subheads, and the photos did a good job of breaking up any longer parts.
The final tip for online writing was the use of hyperlinks to help connect your story to other writing and context that readers might find helpful or interesting. This article does use a hyperlink, which is nice as it helps provide information on a subject of the article without going into too much detail and derailing the story. More perhaps could have been put in, if there was opportunity, though.
This article follows the online writing suggestions pretty well, and comes out to be a compelling and interesting article. It uses the different features of online writing to its advantage, with snappy paragraphs and interesting images and add-ins.
Voice is an important part of all writing. From research papers to blog posts (like this one!), the voice of the writing will determine the impact and effectiveness of your writing.
In this class so far, we’ve looked at a lot of different sources of writing, from more serious stories to playful entertainment articles.
Most of the news stories that I read fell under two categories. The first, a sort of actual-information-but-casual style used first person pronouns, made references, and also used some extra language to help set the tone of the article. However, it didn’t become overly flowery and kept itself fairly easy to understand. This type of writing seemed to be the most popular for more fun entertainment stories versus more serious stories. It’s useful for articles that are looking to give information as well as a personal opinion.
Phrases like “I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so ... scared!”, which opens this article from OnMilwaukee wouldn’t be found in a more serious article, but it does tell the reader that this article is going to be lighthearted and fun--hopefully-- to read.
The second style that was popular was a more serious news style. It didn’t use first person pronouns and kept opinions to a minimum. There are less superfluous phrases that don’t add anything but tone to the article, and instead the tone is set more by that choice and the information itself. Facts are presented fairly clinically, and the reader is encouraged to draw their own conclusions. Of course, they are still nudged towards certain views, but that’s common throughout most writing.
An example of this style can be seen in the following paragraph:
“Pedraza, a Beloit College grad, had worked at creameries throughout the United States. She was drawn back to Wisconsin through a chance encounter with Andy Hatch of Wisconsin’s Upland Cheese. Hatch happened to know a goat farmer looking to install a creamery and make cheese.”
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities where the author could put in opinions, more personal interjections, or descriptive fluff, but it is kept simple and to the point.
The article These Buildings were demolished for soulless surface parking surfaces by Jason McDowell for OnMilwaukee falls into the first style. This can be seen right away in the second sentence: “I try to avoid preservation simply for the sake of nostalgia, but seeing any building replaced by a parking lot, especially a surface lot, feels like a backwards move.” This article has information, and is giving it, but it’s also conveying a personal opinion.
Another article that uses this style, albeit in a very different way is the Urban Milwaukee article “Portrait Society Show Packs Emotional Punch” by Todd Mrozinski.
Mrozinski has a very artistic style of writing that uses a surplus of descriptors, metaphors, and “big picture” connections.
“Through Chardin’s masterful touch and use of soft and hard edges, the still life becomes a landscape. The haziness of the vase contour behind the sharpness of the peach creates space like a distant mountain range on a foggy day.”
This makes his writing well-suited for art-based stories, where moods and impressions are the basis of the story. It wouldn’t work so well for a story on, say, the latest election results or a water quality report. However, despite its differences it still fulfills the same purposes as McDowell’s OnMilwaukee article.
Another example from this article is the sentence, “The bottom edge glows with an unfinished portion of canvas and the richness of cool light and color harmony become symphonic as much as optic.” In another article, this sentence would seem out of place and overworked. In this article, however, it helps describe the tone of the painting and thus of the greater exhibit that is the focus of the article.
Different styles of writing, as I mentioned before, are used for different purposes. OnMilwaukee is a news site that focuses on more entertaining or light stories than other sites like ShepardExpress, which use more serious and impersonal language. McDowell’s article is a good example of this. Its subject isn’t groundbreaking news, but rather something someone would read out of personal interest, and the writing reflects that.
It doesn’t try to be scientific paper, and uses personal language to help ingratiate its views with the reader, making its arguments and opinions more persuasive and also more enjoyable and easygoing to read.
Mrozinski’s voice is very poetic; he enjoys using flowery language and nature-themed metaphors. He didn’t need to write, “the cornucopia of flowers and vines which pop and pulsate with curves and corpulent juiciness,” he could have just written, “the many colorful flowers and vines.” The first has much more personality, though; it is far more descriptive of the mood of the painting he is talking about.
He also seems to gravitate towards finding larger meanings in things, finding connections between times, people, and places. In one of the articles, he describes the subject of the painting in relation to the medium itself: “The canvas becomes a casket and the paint, applied with stunning directness, becomes the internal organs. My favorite area in this painting is where Soutine has literally filleted the painting by taking his palette knife and scraping through the semi dry layers of paint to indicate the edge of the prostrate bird.”
Now, would I look at this painting and think this, ever? Probably not. Did the artist mean it this way, or did he just want to paint a pheasant? We don’t know (probablyThey could have written it down, I suppose.). But it’s an interesting take, and is a fascinating look into how art can take on meanings outside of what anyone intends, and how people will make connections and find meanings all on their own.
Mrozinski is clearly a person who spends a lot of time thinking about nature, and philosophizing about connections in the world and meanings of bigger things. His writing reflects this; it’s flowery and full of words and phrases that do nothing but set the scene for the message of the writing. It’s a very artistic way of writing that gives the reader a better mood of the piece at the price of being a bit long and arduous, and maybe a tad ridiculous (at least, to me) at some points.
It makes sense that Mrozinski would write like this, because he also approaches art like this. He describes his art as “relating symbolically to his life experience,” and focuses on nature in his work.
Looking through different news sites, it’s interesting to see differences in language and how the tone and layout respond to the audience of the site. I compared several different sites, most focused on Milwaukee, specifically looking at the writing styles and audience.
Just poking around the site, you can tell that it's made by people living in Milwaukee and really focuses on local events more than national news. Which makes sense, given the name! Lots of small restaurants, events, and other reviews make it a very... personal, I guess, feeling news site-- you can tell that its audience is definitely people who would be in the area and interested in trendy and new things going on. It probably aims at people who are bit younger; folks who are still interested in trying the new hipster burger place that opened or want to keep on top of Netflix shows. Of course, older people could always enjoy those things, but the site is more marketed towards more youthful generations.
A lot of the most apparent articles are on or based around food. This makes sense to me; food is something that people always can enjoy and has lots of things you can do with it.
They also have a collection of guides which act like specialized directories. These would be helpful for people living in and out of the area.
I took a look at the featured article that popped up on the site: What's new on Netflix in September 2021.
It was a short article, as you might expect. The information was condensed well in a few opening paragraphs that precede dated lists of the shows soon to be appearing on the aforementioned streaming service. The article itself (that wasn’t just lists) was written in a very informal voice, with opinions and jokes that kept my interest. It was definitely a more lighthearted, entertainment piece than a straight informational one. It got across the information, and in a way that was appealing and fun to its intended audience.
The second article I looked at was Semolina pasta shop aims to revive the art of handmade Italian pasta. I love pasta, so of course I had to take a look!
This article was much longer. It consisted of a lot of thoughts and quotes on the new store from the owner, such as their inspiration for the new restaurant, as well as information on the menu and atmosphere of the small store.
The writing is uncomplicated, with lots of direct quotes and paragraph breaks. It explains many of more obscure terms and also links to Twitter posts about the place. It closes with letting the reader know when the hours will likely be.
I’m mainly interested in the octopus stamped token pasta, oh my god.
Cephalopods are my favorite animals, and pasta is my favorite food, so I very much like this development.
Okay, first thoughts! Poking around the main page, I definitely get a different vibe than OnMilwaukee. ShepardExpress strikes me as news for people living in Milwaukee, and less of a site about things in Milwaukee, like OnMilwaukee is. Definitely aimed to include an older crowd, I think.
I stopped looking through the front page and started looking for an article when a lifestyle article description started making me laugh, mainly for my own imagery when I read it.
Time for the article!
I figured that since I did a food-based article for OnMilwaukee, I should do one for ShepardExpress as well. Thus, I chose Cheesemaker Opens Her ‘Dreamery’ Crafting Goat’s Milk Cheese! My grandma can’t have regular dairy, so she eats goat milk cheese, so that’s why this one caught my eye!
Right away, you can see the difference in writing styles between the two sites. ShepherdExress is much less “fun”-- there’s no little quips or jokes, mostly just facts and history points. It’s more information-dense and history oriented than person oriented, but that could also just be the topic.
Right away, I see that we’re moving further away from “trendy entertainment news” to more serious business stories. Lots of articles on business deals, new companies, old companies doing new things, old companies doing old things but during a pandemic, etc.
A lot less articles on things like restaurant food or activities, unless it’s relating to rules or policies regarding them. This is not a site you’d go to looking for a new thing to do this weekend.
I can see my dad reading this site. He also makes spreadsheets of things for fun, so I’m not sure how much of a compliment this is.
I pretty much picked the first article that wasn’t about money doing things in business settings, which turned out to be one titled Supervisor Pushes Vaccine Mandate. It’s about a policy being pushed to require vaccinations for Milwaukee county employees.
Right away, it’s obvious that the article isn’t going to be having any funny jokes or many opinions at all. The language is a lot more serious than the others, leaning more towards academic writing. It definitely comes across as a more serious, factual article, which makes sense for its content.
We’re back to more entertainment!
At first… scroll-through, this site seems to have a rather eclectic mix of different Milwaukee and Midwest-based stories. Things from “Milwaukee Through the Years” to “Giannis Is Now a Brewers Owner” are featured on their main page. (I do take some offense at the headline outlining a “random” study that proclaimed Milwaukee third in cat adoptions-- don’t they know that studies are never random? People worked hard and paid good money to get that funded, let’s give our scientists some respect! I have strong feelings on this.)
This site comes across as more sensationalist than the others. It’s the more click-bait-y titles, I think; even if the articles are the same, OnMilwaukee isn’t titling their stories “The New Netflix Lineup Will Have You Buying Popcorn in Anticipation.” Because of that it kind of makes me trust the site less? Despite the nice black and white layout.
Actually, it’s because of the layout that I think this site might actually be angled to try and get older people to look at it. It could also just be the aesthetic, but in Graphic Design, one column, simple flow layouts are used in publications aimed at middle aged and elderly people a lot; they’re easier to follow and don’t have the same “frantic” nature of layouts like the one OnMilwaukee sports.
I live... near Lake Michigan! I live in a home! I figured I related a lot to the article Which of These Lake Michigan Homes Suits You Best? so that was my choice for this site.
So this article goes back to more of the style of the first, with opinions interspersed throughout. The article is short. Really short. Honestly, the pictures might be the more important bit. I’m not exactly sure what the point is, so that means that it’s probably just pure entertainment. More of a time waster than anything, to be honest, it kinda weirds me out that someone sat down, wrote this up, and got paid for this.
Okay! Last assigned news site. This site definitely looks like it’s aimed at a younger and less formal crowd. It’s got a packed front page that’s got a lot of various articles about Milwaukee going-ons. It’s less focused on food and places like OnMilwaukee, and seems to deal with a lot of stories on things to do or that are happening currently. Other than that, it looks to have a lot of information on media that (probably?) has to do with the area.
I kind of just picked a random article from the front page. That random article turned out to be Matt & Kristin Talk About Milwaukee & Wisconsin Stuff #9: Vaccines, Colectivo, census!
Surprise! It turned out that the majority of the content of the story was in a video. A really long video. I didn’t watch it all. It was half an hour, okay? Don’t judge me.
Anyway, I can say that the story on the whole was very informal, lots of personal jokes and there’s some cursing and the two reporters are pretty laid back.
I would say that this would be a pretty universally okay sort of story, unless you really only liked more formal news. Which I guess some people are like?
Finally, I went out and found a news site that wasn’t Milwaukee-based. I don’t really read the news, so it’s fairly random which one I chose. I have no guarantees on the quality.
So! This site is clearly aimed at younger crowds. Not like, young, young. Teens and up. Just not too far up.
It’s got a lot of international and national news, interspersed with social media stories, entertainment articles written around photo sets or trends, relevant scientific news, and other information that might be of interest to the intended audience, like articles on gender identity.
I selected a random article from the front page, which turned out to be titled FOMO is over. FOGO and FONO are our new social fears.
This article was all about some of the repercussions of COVID and ways that people are handling changes in behavior and anxiety in a post COVID-world. Two new terms, FONO (Fear of Normal) and FOGO (Fear of Going Out) are discussed. The article, for being on two terms that were probably derived from memes, is surprisingly serious. It includes good research and quotes from experts, and discusses why and how these terms are spreading and how they’re important. However, it’s not written in a super formal voice, like a scientific paper, just a serious one, so it’s still accessible for the audience and not incredibly dry.