Ways of Writing News Stories for the Web

Keep It Short, Break It Up, and Don't Forget to Highlight

Businesswoman using laptop at desk
(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:

Keep It Short

Reading from a computer screen is slower than reading from a 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 – just a sentence or two each – look less imposing on a web page.

Break It Up

If you do have an article that’s on the longish 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.

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 and to the point.

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 stuff 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.

Use Subheads

Subheads are another way to highlight points and break up text into user-friendly chunks. But keep your subheads clear and informative, not “cute.”

Use Hyperlinks Wisely

Use hyperlinks to connect surfers to other web pages that are related to your article. But use hyperlinks only when needed; if you can summarize the information succinctly without linking elsewhere, do so.