Definition and Examples of Online Writing

Woman working on a laptop computer.
Omar Havana/Getty Images

Online writing refers to any text created with (and usually intended for viewing on) a computer, smartphone, or similar digital device. Also called digital writing.

Online writing formats include texting, instant messaging, emailing, blogging, tweeting, and posting comments on social media sites such as Facebook.

See Examples and Observations

Examples and Observations

"The main difference between offline and online writing techniques is that while people buy newspapers and magazines intending to read them, on the Internet people generally browse. You must grab their attention and hold it if they are to read on. This means that, on the whole, online writing is more concise and pithy and should offer the reader greater interactivity."
(Brendan Hennessy, Writing Feature Articles, 4th ed. Focal Press, 2006)

"Digital writing is not simply a matter of learning about and integrating new digital tools into an unchanged repertoire of writing processes, practices, skills, and habits of mind.

Digital writing is about the dramatic changes in the ecology of writing and communication and, indeed, what it means to write—to create and compose and share."
(National Writing Project, Because Digital Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments. Jossey-Bass, 2010)

Structuring Online Writing

"Because online readers tend to scan, a Web page or e-mail message should be visibly structured; it should have what [Jakob] Nielsen calls a 'scannable layout.' He found that frequent use of headings and bullets can increase readability by 47 percent. And since his study found that only about 10 percent of online readers scroll below the text initially visible on the screen, online writing should be 'fronted,' with the most important information placed at the beginning. Unless you have a good reason otherwise--as in a 'bad news' message, for example--structure your Web pages and e-mail messages like newspaper articles, with the most important information in the headline (or subject line) and the first paragraph."
(Kenneth W. Davis, The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course in Business Writing and Communication, 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill, 2010)

Blogging

"Blogs are usually written by one person in their own individual language. This, therefore, presents you with the ideal opportunity to present the human face and personality of your business.

"You can be:

- conversational
- enthusiastic
- engaging
- intimate (but not overly so)
- informal.

All of this is possible without stopping beyond the limits of what would be considered as the acceptable voice of the company.



"However, other styles may be required owing to the nature of your business or your readership.

"On the latter, as with other forms of online writing, it's important to know your reader and their expectations before you begin writing a blog."
(David Mill, Content Is King: Writing and Editing Online. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005)

Single Sourcing

"Single sourcing describes the set of skills related to the conversion, updating, remediating, and reuse of content across multiple platforms, products, and media. . . . Creating reusable content is an important skill in Internet writing for a variety of reasons. It saves the writing team time, effort, and resources by writing content once and reusing it multiple times. It also creates flexible content that can be adapted and published in a variety of formats and media, such as web pages, videos, podcasts, advertisements, and printed literature."
(Craig Baehr and Bob Schaller, Writing for the Internet: A Guide to Real Communication in Virtual Space.

Greenwood Press, 2010)