I spent last summer, taking digital essay lessons. They were part of a series that I call, “Learning to Write for Morons,” by Medium.com.
I learned a lot, but I can condense the lessons into one premise: If you’re writing online articles, you have a split second to keep the reader’s attention and you have, maybe, three split seconds to keep his attention. Tell yourself, “You’re writing for surfer dudes, almost literally. They have the attention span of gnats. Engage them.”
In order to do this, you need to follow these two rules:
1. Write great titles for your pieces (many authorities say you shoud spend as much time on your headlines as you do the article itself, which strikes me as ludicrous, unless perhaps you’re cranking out P.o.S. articles).
2. Lots of white space.
The second rule breaks down into a series of sub-rules: break your articles into sections, each section should be no longer than 300 (preferably, 250) words, use sub-headings, paragraphs should only be two or three lines long (it’s that last one, I think, drives traditional writers mad . . . I know it irritates me, but I use it as motivation to do the bulk of my reading from books).
The first rule also breaks down into a series of sub-rules, but the overarching rule is: Grab the reader’s attention so he’ll click on it.
Ever since reading those rules last summer, I’ve been working on my headlines (maybe you, dear TDE reader, have noticed my sensationalist edge?). I’ve also been noticing the outlandish headlines I see online.
Maybe it has always been this way, but I think that, as more and more people follow the rubrics of online writing, the headlines have become increasingly outlandish. This one from yesterday … Read the rest