MLA News Selected Articles
Edited by Kristine Alpi, AHIP
Submitted by Cynthia Kleback, Medical Library and Learning Resources Center, Mercer University School of Medicine, Macon, GA
Every Web surfer has had the experience of arriving at a Web page that was nothing but screens and screens of text. Like most people faced with such a Web page, you probably surfed on without reading much, if any, of the text. While the information was more than likely helpful, the task of wading through all the words to get to what was needed was too much trouble.
To write for the Web, you need first to understand how people read on the Web. Very few people read Web pages word-for-word; most will scan the page for what they are seeking. Therefore, successful Web writing incorporates style devices like tables, bulleted points, highlighted keywords, and subheadings . Making the page as user-friendly as possible will help the reader find the needed information.
Figuring out the page layout is the next step in writing any Web page. As antiquated as it sounds, sketching a layout on a piece of paper can be a good guide when creating the page online. An amount of "white space" around text and graphics should be included in the layout to avoid overwhelming the reader. This does not mean you have to avoid a lot of text on a page; in fact, the site should provide as much information as you want to convey. Just keep in mind that readers will not get the information if they become frustrated and go searching for another easier-to-use and easier-to-read site.
Web writing is more concise, or as one author calls it "tighter," than writing for print . The aim is to get the information across in fewer words, without the writing being stilted or losing the flow of ideas. The information should be conveyed in a readable manner while avoiding the use of jargon and slang that may not be familiar to visitors to your site.
In the end, writing for the Web is very similar to writing for television commercials. The information is presented in concise bites, and the visual parts of the page are vital to getting the message across. Any subject can be translated into a successful Website; the trick is learning how to present the information in the most effective manner.
A few helpful Websites on writing for the Web:
1. Nielson, J. How users read on the Web. [Web document]. Mountain View, CA: 1997. [cited 25 Jul 2000]. <http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html>.
Edited by Kristine Alpi, AHIP
Submitted by Lynanne Feilen, Director of Publications, Medical Library Association
There are numerous guides for finding information online, and the art and science of writing is no exception. A search with Google resulted in about 160,000 hits for writing resources for the library sciences. The following is a brief list of some eclectic writing Websites. Many universities offer writing-related electronic resources and some classic texts are now available online.
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