Five Things I’ve Learned About Writing for the Web

Here’s a bonus tip: snacks always help.

It’s fair to say that most people don’t have a great attention span.

Maybe this is just a natural consequence for millenials, having more information at our fingertips than ever before. But I know I’m not alone in being scared of a giant wall of text.

When I started my first personal blog back in 2002, I’m pretty sure a wall of text was all I ever produced. I mean, even good writers start out as so-so writers. And I do think the content was reasonably interesting, but the way I was presenting it was totally disengaging. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about writing for an online audience: 

1) Break up the text into manageable paragraphs.

I’m sure there are interesting psychological explanations for this. I’m also quite certain I read it in a design book. In any case, not only do small paragraphs look better, but it’s actually easier to read text that’s got a bit of breathing room.

2) Use headings to group content.

As someone who is obsessed with organization, this is one of my favourites. Not only do headings make things clear in your own mind, but they also help your reader by giving them a road map for your message.

3) Bold to highlight major points.

To be bold is to stand out. And that’s exactly what you want your writing to do. Used sparingly, bolding is an excellent way to emphasize your point. It highlights the most important information for people who prefer to just skim.

4) Make lists!

Yes. Maybe there are more than five things that every mother should know. But don’t you just need to know what those five things are now?! Lists make it easy for us to remember and often help us to simplify complex ideas. Awesome!

5) Be memorable.

In other words, don’t be boring. It’s good to know your audience – as you’ll use different language for grandma’s knitting group than a Justin Bieber fan club newsletter. But in either case, you need to evoke a memorable image… like Grandma’s Justin Bieber Knitting Club.

There’s certainly a lot more to good writing, but these are just a few of the major lessons I’ve learned about writing in an engaging way for a difficult-to-engage audience. 

Need a writer, editor, or moral supporter for your writing project? Drop me a line.

-Janice

How I Became a Freelancer

As someone who loves a predictable routine and a clear plan, it might seem strange that I decided to become a freelancer.

And to be honest, you’re not wrong. But life is unpredictable and disregards our plans most of the time anyway. So, why not try something a bit out of my usual comfort zone?

After completing my MA in Sociology and working as a researcher for a few years, I began applying for jobs that involved more fun and creative tasks. I wound up snagging the Interim Director of Communications and Marketing gig at Symphony Nova Scotia. Hurray for me!

It was a maternity leave contract for one year. I had no real hopes or expectation that I’d have a new job at the end, but I knew at the very least that I’d get some valuable work experience, and hopefully that would prepare me for whatever came next. In the end, the Symphony created a new position for me and I worked there for almost seven years.

As much as I loved my time at the Symphony, there were two main reasons I decided to move on. My father died in early 2018, which basically turned my world upside down. At the same time, my partner lived in England and long-distance was getting old.

So, the timing was right for me. But here are a few general reasons why anyone might want to turn their skills into a freelance enterprise:

It’s location independent.

I can do my work just about anywhere that has a surface for a laptop and a decent wifi connection. Turns out that’s a lot of places – I’ve worked remotely all over Europe. But after almost a year of travelling, I’m glad to do most of my work from my apartment in Halifax.

You can choose the type of work you want to do.

For me, writing, editing, and beautifying print and online content is the best. And given the choice, why wouldn’t I want to do what I love? It feels great to have identified the work I enjoy the most – and that I’m quite good at – and to continue to hone these skills.

You can apply your skills to a wide variety of projects.

I’ve been able to work on some pretty interesting projects that I’d never have encountered except for freelancing. Plus, it’s so gratifying to be able to use my hard-earned skills to help great people and organizations with their communications.

There are always challenges, but that’s true of everything worth doing in life. And it helps that Matt is a very experienced freelancer, too. But the absolute best part of freelancing? My cat is sitting in my lap as we speak. I mean, who could ask for anything more?

-Janice