Writing News Stories for the Web

Learn how to write for online news

Writing news for the web

Sam Edwards/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Journalism’s future is clearly online, so it’s important for any aspiring journalist to learn the basics of writing for the web. Newswriting and web writing are similar in many ways, so if you’ve done news stories, learning to write for the web shouldn’t be hard.

Here are some tips to help you learn how to get started writing for online news.

Keep It Short

People generally read slower from a computer or phone screen than on paper. So if newspaper stories need to be short, online stories need to be even shorter. A general rule of thumb: Web content should have about half as many words as its printed equivalent.

So keep your sentences short and limit yourself to one main idea per paragraph. Short paragraphs look less imposing on a web page.

Break It Up

If you do have an article that’s on the long side, don’t try to cram it onto one web page. Break it up into several pages, using a clearly visible “continued on next page” link at the bottom.

Focus on SEO

Unlike newswriting, writing for the web has to take into consideration search engine optimization (SEO). You put in the work to write a great article, and you want people to see it online—this means following SEO best practices.

Research and apply Google’s content and technical guidelines for inclusion on the Google News page to ensure that your site’s articles pop up with other reputable publications. Incorporate relevant keywords and link to other articles within your site as well.

Write in the Active Voice

Remember the subject-verb-object model from newswriting? Use it for web writing as well. S-V-O sentences written in the active voice tend to be short, to the point, and clear.

Use the Inverted Pyramid

Summarize the main point of your article right at the start, just as you would in the lede of a news story. Put the most important information in the top half of your article, the less important details in the bottom half.

Highlight Key Words

Use boldface text to highlight especially important words and phrases. But use this sparingly; if you highlight too much text, nothing will stand out.

Use Bulleted and Numbered Lists

This is another way of highlighting important information and breaking up chunks of text that may be getting too long. Bulleted and numbered lists can help you organize details in a story in a way that is easily digestible for readers.

Use Subheads

This is key to the standard online journalism format. Subheads are another way to highlight points and break up text into user-friendly sections. Keep your subheads clear and informative so a reader can navigate the story or skim the page.

Use Hyperlinks Wisely

Use hyperlinks to bring readers extra, contextual information to your story. Keep in mind that it's best to hyperlink internally (to another page within your own site), and that if you can summarize the information succinctly without linking elsewhere, do so.