Eric May – Media Consultant




Effective writing for online news

Jakob Nielsen’s discovery of the “F” pattern in online reading means web news producers must structure their stories very specifically.

The most important element of an effective web story is a strong headline. It is the headline (and meta tags buried in the html code) that draw search engines and the online audience to your story and compels them to read on. 

If search engines can’t find your story, your audience won’t find it either. That’s why the basic structure of an effective online news story must be:

1. The headline
2. Everything else

Compelling headlines are:

• Short (30-40 characters maximum)
• Effective words, to the point
• Spelled correctly
• Searchable keywords (names/places/actions) that relate directly to the story
• Updated regularly

After the headline, the next most important element is the first paragraph. A strong first paragraph has its own unique characteristics.

An effective first paragraph:

• Tells as much as possible (without being complicated)
• Not more than three sentences
• Goes beyond the headline: no repeating words
• Searchable keywords specific to the story

techniques for more effective online writing

• The latest information first
• Simple sentences (many people are slow readers with limited comprehension)
• Short paragraphs
• Clear and direct language

ask yourself:

• Do my words connect with the audience?
• Are my words clear and understandable?
• Do my words tell the story?