Web Watch:
Writing for the Web

Susan Deysher
CAST, Inc.

When students and teachers learn how to create webpages, often the skills that are emphasized are the kinds of things one needs to know to actually build a webpage: for example, HTML, formats for Web graphics, and page layout and design. But what about the content that is communicated via a webpage's actual text? Readers interact with text on a webpage differently than they do with text in a novel or textbook. For example, webpage readers expect shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs than are typically found in print materials. Writing for the Web requires making some adjustments to how we normally think of presenting information. This is a valuable skill for teachers to learn as they make curricular resources available on the Web so that these resources are easy for students to use and understand. Likewise, it is just as valuable for students to acquire these skills to be able to effectively present information in this medium. In addition, having an understanding of the structures that comprise good Web content allows students to be more strategic about finding information and more critical viewers of website content.

To get started with learning to write for the Web, here are some resources you might find helpful:

Be Succinct! Writing for the Web - An Alertbox column from Dr. Jakob Nielsen .

Writing for the Web - A full length paper outlining research on reading on the Web and writing for the Web by John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen.

Creating Good Websites: Writing - Part of a larger site that includes a wealth of information on good website design.

Web Teaching Articles: Writing for the Web - A resource on using the Web in teaching provided by Academic Computing at Dartmouth College.

The following two lesson plans highlight ways in which to teach writing for the Web that can be adapted for other subject areas and grade levels:

All History is Local: Creating a Web Page for the Arkansas Memory Project - Includes a Student Guide for Creating Web Pages and a Web Page Evaluation Worksheet.

The Essay and the Websay - A lesson developed by Patricia Ventura that appears in Kairos,"a refereed online journal exploring the intersections of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy."

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Reading Online, www.readingonline.org
Posted October 2002
© 2002 International Reading Association, Inc.   ISSN 1096-1232