Writing has changed throughout history. Technology of the times has had an impact HOW, WHAT, and for WHOM we write. Nichole Pinkard affirms in a video by Edutopia’s Big Thinkers’ Series, that “Literacy has always been defined by technology”.
The realization, that most of our daily reading happens in digital spaces when our (and our students’) writing continues to be primarily focused on analog writing, continues to baffle me. Our writing habits, as well as our teaching of writing have not kept up with our rapidly changing culture of communication outside of the walls of the classrooms. There are plenty of writers out there wrapping their minds around what does it mean to write in the 21st century and in digital platforms, ex. Teaching the New Writing, A Better Pencil, Writing on the Wall, Because Digital Writing Matters
Much digital writing in education (students, educators, blogs, websites, social media platforms, shared documents, etc.) seems to merely substituting analog writing (think SAMR model- no functional improvement). The writer does not show awareness of the digital writing genre, including its anatomy, syntax, grammar nor the taxonomy of digital writing.
It is not that easy to simply transfer an analog text from paper to a screen. While the transfer is possible, the now digital writing piece is not living up to its potential. Even more, the now digital writing is out of place, due to the lack of adaptations to its environment and readers’ expectations. [Who has not wished to click on an underlined word or phrase on their screen only to find out that the authored did not link, but “only formatted” the word with underlining?]
Digital writing allows a writer to re-think writing and reading experiences, choose from multiple possibilities of communicating and opportunities to to amplify their thoughts, ideas, connections, references, train of thought, and their audience.
Here are 5 opportunities to amplify your writing when using a digital platform.
Take advantage of adding links to individual words or phrased in order to add depth to your writing. A link takes your reader to another Internet address. Hyperlinking goes well beyond simply adding “clickable words” to an otherwise static, unilateral, linear, one dimensional and disconnected text. Critical thinking and strategy skills are needed to include “higher order hyperlinks. A digital writer can
- emphasize (point their readers) to a virtual place or connect them to a specific idea and concept by choosing what kind of link to place in their hyperlinked text.
- mix form and content to open up different dimensions, making their writing non-linear, multi-layered and connected.
- use the hyperlink as a medium to convey her/his own train of thought
One of the faux pas, I often see in hyperlinked writing, are “grammatical and syntax” errors in expressing a well formed sentence while including hyperlinks.
- links are not integrated into the flow of the sentence (Ex. Click here, here, and here…)
- link text is not descriptive (Ex. Click here to see , Check out my latest blog post, Take a look at…)
- links do not clearly indicate what the reader can expect to find if they were to click on the link
- links are the URL (link address) spelled out, instead of embedded into the flow of the text sentence. (Ex. Take a look at http://langwitches.org/blog/2012/04/03/hyperlinked-writing-in-the-classroom/)
- Link doesn’t or hardly connects to Text Content (Lower Level)
- Link connects to Definitions, a Person’s Web Presence, or to Citation Source Link connects to Example(s), Illustrating Content, from Theory to Practice (adding value to text)
Link Choice Shows Evidence of Research & Organization of Background Information (Contextual) (Higher Level)
Link connects Content/Theme/Topic to Author’s own previous writing or supports/brings in Perspective from Others, Adding Value, Variety & Depth to Text (Higher Level)
There is no doubt that generation Y & Z are a much more visual generation than than generation X or Baby Boomers. As a writer, we need to take our audience into consideration and adapt a more visual writing style to:
- support the content
- catch the attention of our potential readers
- connect readers to other resources
- use the power of a visual that is worth a thousand words
- allow other areas of the brain to be activated
- serve as a prompt to ignite the readers’ imagination
- immerse our readers with more senses
Social media platforms invite the writer to amplify their reach, connect and interact with an exponential amount of potential readers and join a conversation about topics they care about.
Social media writing is evolving as social media platforms:
- add different types of labels, such as #hashtags and @mentions to make finding users, posts, messages or contributions easier
- allow media beyond text to be posted, inserted and embedded
- curate information to share with your network
- add value to resources by adding your perspective, connections, opinion, voice
- support collaborative writing efforts
We are being bombarded with information. Email newsletters, articles, blog posts, etc. are begging us to click here and to click there. How do we help our content to stand out? How do we help potential readers to make the commitment to click through and read our writing? It all starts with a headline. You have one second to hook a potential reader before they move on. Of course, the content that you are writing and sharing online has to be of quality as well, otherwise your readers will never return and you want to entice them to return to your site to read your future writing as well.
Most of the readers of your online writing will not purposefully decide to go and visit your writing space, they might have subscribed via an RSS feed, you might pop up in their news feed of social media followers. The first thing, and sometimes only piece of writing, they will see is your headline. It is then when you need to convince them to click on that link, expand the article or click on the “read more”. Once there have read your piece, you will need to convince them to return.
Our culture’s reading habits have changed, so must our writing habits adapt. We are reading more in a non-linear fashion, skim more, frequently jump from one reading to the next and have overall less attention span when looking for information. This directly connects and should affect our writing style. Writers must take into consideration keywords that support:
- curation (filter, select & present according to keywords)
- ability to archive according to categories, tags or labels
- ability to search and find archived material
- connect keywords from a variety of sources and platforms
- hook potential readers with a single keyword of interest
- content with precision and brevity