INTRODUCTION TO WRITING FOR CYBER MEDIA

 

UNIT STRUCTURE

1. Learning Objectives
2. Introduction
3. What is cyber media?

1. Characteristics of cyber media
2. Difference between cyber content and print content


4. How to write for cyber media

1. Cyber writing style and format
5. Cyber writing conventions
6. Let us sum up
7. Answers To Check Your Progress
8. Possible Questions

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

 
After going through this unit, you will be able to:
define cyber media,
enumerate the characteristics of cyber media,
distinguish between cyber content and print content,
distinguish between the writing style for print and cyber media,
learn the basic principles of writing for cyber media.

INTRODUCTION


In this fast changing media scenario, cyber media is an ever expanding medium. Every organisation and almost every individual nowadays has an online presence. You will come across websites that cater to every sector, every branch of human knowledge and every business enterprise. The online or cyber world is not merely a storehouse of information or knowledge but it has now become the most popular medium of expressing views, advertising products and maintaining social contacts.

In such a scenario, web or cyber writing has also become a booming enterprise. With so many websites in the cyber world, the demand for web writers has increased manifold. It is a totally different sector and even if it might seem like just plain simple writing, web writing requires a lot more. This unit will deal with this very aspect—what it takes to write for the web. This unit will focus on the style of web writing and how web writing is different from writing for any other medium.
 

WHAT IS CYBER MEDIA


Cyber media or online media or web media are all the same. Nowadays, most communication takes place through the Internet and the World Wide Web through the various websites. This form of communication is referred to as cyber media or online media. As mentioned earlier, almost every establishment in the world now has an online presence. It helps them communicate with their clients and customers through the Internet. So cyber media is basically a cyber medium that enables organistaions and individuals to interact and communicate with their prospective clients. These clients will read and find out about these organisations and individuals by way of the Internet.

The web is the most far-reaching and extensive communication medium in the world right now. It has built a bridge among millions of people divided by geographical boundaries and has brought so many communities and groups together. Anyone can address a huge number of people through the web. Its potential is huge and this realisation has led to the rise of online news and views.


Characteristics of cyber media


Cyber media is different from all other media, viz. print media and electronic medium. These basic differences characterize cyber media and helps one appreciate the web or cyber world better. Some of the characteristics of cyber media are:

  • Hypertext: In the cyber world, any bit of information can have several other bits of information linked to it via hyperlinks. Any information or copy can be substantiated with other relevant material by linking the original web page with other web pages. These linked web pages may be available in that website itself or in any other website on the World Wide Web. This is called hypertextuality and it is one of the major characteristics of cyber media.

  • Interactivity: Cyber media is an interactive media. Any and every website in the World Wide Web has options for readers to interact with the cyber writers. Readers of online content can not only give their views but also receive their replies from the writer in no time. There is a steady flow of information between the sender and the receiver.

  • Multimedia: Use of multimedia is another important feature of online media. Web content can be supplemented by pictures, graphics, audio streams and video footage.

  • No space/time limitations: Web or cyber media is accessible 24 hours a day. A web page on a publicly available web server can be accessed by anyone through the Internet anytime. This means that web works are virtually everywhere at any time, so it’s not time bound. And unlike other media which need to be physically moved from one place to the other, web content flows through web space on the network.

Difference between cyber content and print content


  • Much like the difference between the mediums—cyber and print—the content for both the mediums differ too. A person who can write for the print medium may not be able to do so for the web. There are several distinct features which distinguish web content from print content. The difference may not seem too strong but to achieve good results, each media requires a distinct content style. Some of these distinct differences are:

  • A story on the web requires to be more comprehensive and specific. The same story may not be as specific or detailed for the print medium. For instance, a story on wedding planners has to be treated with a difference in the web medium. In the print medium the story can be about how wedding planners are calling the shots in most weddings these days. Just a description of their work and specific examples of certain weddings will do the trick. Add some pictures from these weddings and the story becomes quite an enjoyable read.

  • The same story however needs a different approach for the web readers. Web readers are always in a hurry. They would necessarily not do leisure reading while they are on the net. They would read the story if it provides them information about these wedding planners. In the print medium the story may lack immediacy and utility which is essential in the web medium. For the web media you will have to provide information about these planners, their budgets, how they function and where to contact them. The more detailed the story the more hits it will get through search engines as well.

  • Print content may be narrative and leisurely but web content needs to be to the point. Most print publications contain linear content, a narrative filled with anecdotes and individual instances. On the web such an approach would slow down the user and stop them from getting to the point. Web content needs to be more action packed and brief because web users are generally on a mission looking for some specific detail.

  • Print narrative often uses complete, well-constructed sentences. On the web, however, sentences may be cut short to only provide the basic info.

  • Print content or for that matter even TV or Radio content is author-driven. The editor or the executive producers prepare the content for this media and present it before the user. But online content is completely based on user needs. The user can ruthlessly reject any content which is not what he desires. They will accept only that which they require by rejecting whatever else is being pushed.

    CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


    1. What is cyber media?

    2. Cyber Media has no space/time limitations. Explain in brief.

    3. Why does cyber content need to be more informative than print content?

HOW TO WRITE FOR CYBER MEDIA


As discussed in the previous section, cyber content varies from print content in many ways. Therefore, it can be said that the writing for web media is also very different from writing for magazines or newspapers. Web writers need to take into consideration several factors while writing for web and all this factors are based on what kind of a content cyber media demands.

Effective copies for cyber media needs to be take the following characteristics into account:

  • Keep it short: Copies need to be kept short. Unless a user visits the particular webpage with the intention to read, he or she won’t read more than a line or two. The longer the copy, the less likelihood that it’ll be read.

  • Keep it simple: Keep the short copy simple. Do not complicate the story so much so that the readers would have to think about what you have written. Because web readers won’t stop to think about what you’ve written. They’ll simply skip the story. One key idea can be effectively conveyed in two three lines. You can also get two ideas if both the ideas are simple. But don’t put in three ideas because the reader may then not even understand the first idea properly. If you feel that the reader might wish to know more about the story, then add hyperlinks to the page.

  • Organise long copy: If your page demands a long copy then make sure you organise the copy effectively. Even if the reader expects a long copy he may not read it all through. So try to divide the copy by breaking paragraphs and using distinct ideas into distinct paragraphs with proper subheads and bullets.

  • Don’t be boring: Write a lively copy with a light and unassuming tone. If your copy is boring, however informative it may be, the reader will not stick to it.

  • Know your audience: It’s important to focus on your target readers. It’s not possible to reach out to every web user. Your copy should address your most important readers directly. Stress on their particular needs and offer them information accordingly.

  • Don’t try to preach: Trying sticking to facts without putting in too much of your own. Do not try to talk down to the readers they are smart individuals who wouldn’t like to be told what to.

 

Cyber writing style and format


While writing for the web, certain stylistic and formatting guidelines need to be followed to create a perfect copy for the web. These guidelines are:

  • Write in inverse pyramid style by giving the most important information in the first paragraph. Elaborate later but don’t forget to reinstate the main point in the last paragraph again.

  • Use active voice and strong verbs to make your story sound important and immediate.

  • Do not use unnecessary words. Make sure that every word counts. Reread the story after you have written it and delete the unnecessary words. Be as precise as possible.
  • Write in third person. Avoid superlatives and exclamation points. They’ll make your story less credible.

  • Keep the paragraphs short and provide ample space between them. This helps online readability and keeps the readers’ attention.

  • Keep the headlines short. If you want to put more information into the headline use a sub heading.

  • Most websites demand a small introduction to your story. Keep it four sentences or less and these lines may help you get a reader or get him off the site. So make sure you use the right words to intrigue the reader but don’t give away the story.

  • Take necessary steps to eliminate mistakes. Check and cross check your story before uploading it on the site. Write out the story on a word document first to eliminate any typing errors. Even a wrong spelling will make you lose your credibility.

  • The writing style should be conversational to give it a personal edge. A casual sense of writing makes your story user friendly and easier to read.

  • Be specific to be more useful. Some general information is fine but for web users you need to put in all the information they might need to act on it.

  • Start your copy with the headline—always. The most important aspect of your story needs to be condensed into a one-line header. Use subheads generously. Users generally skim through stories looking for specific information. The subheads will help them find what they are looking for.

  • Sentences presented in Bold Text stands out but it should be done rarely. Too many bold words in a copy might make the copy look confusing.

  • If you want to emphasise anything use ‘italics’. Italics will make your reader understand that you intend to emphasise that particular word or sentence. It also makes the copy sound more conversational. A sentence can mean different or sound different if a different word is italicised. For instance, here’s a same sentence but the italics give them a different meaning.

    1. I said I want it
    2. I said I want it
    3. I said I want it
    4. I said I want it
    5. I said I want it


  • You should use bullets to point put the most important points.

  • Use quotes but ensure that proper permission has been taken.

  • Highlight your most important quote by setting them in a larger and different font type.

  • Keywords rule the Internet world. If you want to get maximum readers make sure that you use apt keywords. Keywords tell the user and the search engines what your story is about. Search engines like Google, Yahoo etc. help users to search for news by way of keywords. For instance if your story is about communal riots then make sure that you use words like ‘religion’, ‘riot’, ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’ etc. So, when an internet user uses a search engine to look for a story on communal riots he will definitely use these terms and will be directed to your story.

  • Use the keyword in the first paragraph itself and sprinkle it all across the story. It may be difficult to not sound repetitive but you have to make your point obvious.

  • Do not push your product. Although you wish to sell your idea or product, do not let that become evident in your writing. Your aim should be to inform not persuade. The best way to do so is to mention the problem and then to put up your idea as the solution for the problem.

  • Use personal stories as references. Mention people and real life incidents. Readers love to read human interest stories and it also authenticates your story.

  • Avoid using metaphors or technical jargon or figures of speech. In other words, avoid writing like a typical author with fancy words and poetic bent. If you work as a technical writer then you would need to use technical jargon but that’s alright because technical websites have users who understand those terms.

  • Sarcasm and irony should be used sparsely and whenever you do wish to get sarcastic or witty mention it.

  • If you wish to give in your own opinions say so and when you are stating facts present the source.

    CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


    1. Why is it important to know the audience while writing cyber content?

    2. Why is a conversational style necessary while writing a web copy?

    3. Fill in the blanks:
    I. If you are using ____________, say so.
    II. Organise a long copy by _____________ it into paragraphs with appropriate subheads.
    III. If you wish to emphasise an idea, ______________ the specific word.
    IV. Take proper permission before using _____________.
    V. Superlatives should be avoided to make the story more __________.


CYBER WRITING CONVENTIONS


Apart from the above given style and formatting guidelines a web writer should also be aware of certain conventions that have been in practice for some time now. These are some of the most commonly observed conventions while writing and editing web copies.

  • Do not capitalize words unnecessarily. Capitalise the job title if it precedes the title holder’s name. Eg: Managing Director Shamit Khanna. Company names shouldn’t be capitalized unless the name of the company is an acronym. Eg: ONGC is fine but Reliance India Limited and not RELIANCE INDIA LIMITED.
  • Do not use unnecessary punctuation marks and symbols in company names.
  • If you are writing two distinct thought in a sentence separate them by using em-dashes (—) or as two hyphens (--). Eg: It is true that Rahvi — who spells his name with an H — is a totally cool person.
  • Time should be specified by using a 24-hour clock or by using a.m., p.m. Eg: 12:00:00 or 12:00 pm.
    Use decimals and not fractions. For numbers below 1, use 0 befor decimal. Eg: 0.98. To describe money in rupees or millions use only one decimal place. Eg: Rs 5.2 crore.
  • Avoid using the term dot-com. Instead rephrase the sentence to use the word Internet or Internet company.
  • Avoid using emoticons.
  • Avoid using hyphens. Use them between complex phrases to reduce ambiguity.
  • Do not use the symbols for inches and feet. Spell them out. Eg: a ten-foot bar.
  • Also spell out the following: miles, pages, pounds, yards.
  • Abbreviations can be used for the following


  • One million equals to 10,00,000 and can be abbreviated as M. Eg: He won $10M in lottery.
  • A Billion equals to 1,00,00,00,000 and it can be written as B.
  • Avoid using Mr / Ms / Mrs unless an article has one or more individuals with the same surname.
  • While writing numbers spell out the numbers from 0 to 9. From 10 onwards write the digits.
  • Do not use a dash to describe a range, use ‘to’. Eg: The meeting will be attended by 30 to 35 people.
  • When you start a sentence with a numeral spell it out. For eg: Twenty five members of the crew were injured. If a sentence begins with a year fo not spell it. Eg:2008 was a good year for all.
  • Do not use the percentage symbol (%). Spell out percent while using it with numerals. Eg: A 10 percent loss.
  • Most web stories italicize the names of newspapers and magazines. Eg: Times of India.


    These conventions are generally followed by several websites. But every website has its own particular guidelines which may not be in keeping with these conventions. So, a web writer should understand that he or she must follow whatever the website’s particular content rules are.

    ACTIVITY


    1. Check out India’s most popular websites like rediff.com or yahoo.com and read the stories. Now try to find out one common story (news story) used by both the websites and compare the content.

    2. Pick up a magazine and find out a human interest story. Now write the same story for the web following the rules mentioned in this unit. Pick up a story which you can relate to so that you can add your own information and make it more informative. Remember to keep it short and simple.


LET US SUM UP


  • Cyber media is the medium of communication through the Internet. Communication in the form of stories, pictures, chats etc occur among web users through the common platform called Internet.

  • Cyber media has certain basic characteristics like hypertextuality, interactivity, no space / time limitations and multimedia usage.

  • Cyber or online media content can be linked to one another through hypertext links. A story in a certain page of a particular website can be linked to several other pages, which have similar stories, in other websites.

  • Cyber media is interactive because it enables immediate and constant interaction between the web users. The interaction maybe between the writer and the readers and even among readers.

  • Content in cyber media is very often supplemented by multimedia like video footage, sound streams, pictures, etc. This is only possible in web media content.

  • Cyber media content is available round the clock. If you have access to the Internet you can access any website any time of the day. Also cyber media content need be physically carried from one place to another like other media. It travels through the virtual web network.

  • Cyber media content varies from print media content in several ways.

  • Web stories are more specific while print stories can be narrative and detailed.

  • Stories for print media uses well constructed sentences but cyber media stories should have short sentences.

  • The content is most traditional media forms like print, TV or Radio is author drive. But web media content is user driven. It is the user or web reader who decides what he wants to read or see. Accordingly web makers prepare the content.

  • There are certain characteristics of good web copy. They are:

    i. Web copies need to be short and simple.
    ii. Long copies need to be organised well with appropriate breaks through subheads and paragraphs.
    iii. The writing style needs to be lively even if the content is more informative.
    iv. Before writing for the web one should know one’s readers. The target readership should be ascertained and the stories should concentrate on their needs.
    v. Present facts as they are. Do not put in your own views and even if you do, say so.

  • While writing web copy there are certain guidelines which need to be followed. These guidelines are formatting as well as stylistic guidelines.

  • Web writing is a relatively new branch of media but even in this short span of time, there are certain conventions which have been in use. So these conventions need to be kept in mind while writing web copy.


ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


Check your progress-A

1. Cyber media or online media is that form of media which allows communication through the Internet. Cyber media is dependent on new media technologies like computers and the World Wide Web.

2. Web media or online media is available 24x7, i.e., round-the-clock. Cyber media content unlike the other media content can be accessed at any given point of time through the Internet. Therefore cyber media is not time bound. Similarly it is not space bound either because it not be physically carried form one place to the other like newspapers or TVs or radios. It is available in the virtual world of the Internet.

3. Cyber content needs to be more informative than print content because it has been found that people who visit websites are generally in a hurry and always in the search for information. If they do not find the needed info they would rather skip the site and check out some other website.

Check your Progress- B
1. There are several types of websites in the World Wide Web. They cater to different people, businesses and topics. There fore, they are catering to only a niche clientele. And if they wish to sustain those users they need to know the readers well enough. It is not possible to please every web user. So it is essential to please only those users who are the target group. Know these users, try to figure out what information they might seek and provide that. It will guarantee a regular flow of loyal users to the site.

2. A conversational style of writing helps to attract readers to a story. Web users generally are always in a hurry. So in order to keep them glued to the story it is essential to write it out in a lively and interactive way. Even though it’s just information, the style of writing needs to be witty. It is user friendly.

3. Fill in the blanks:
i. sarcasm
ii. dividing
iii. italicize
iv. quotes
v. credible


POSSIBLE QUESTIONS


1. Cyber copies need to be short and simple. Elucidate.

2. Discuss the importance of cyber media in context to the present times.

3. Web users are fickle minded. Discuss.

4. Write five regular stylistic conventions that web writers must stick to.

5. Owing to the onslaught of websites and the demand for online writers, print media is staring down the barrel. Yes or no? And why?