Author’s note: I’m reproducing this blog from our internal City of Toronto staff webbook blog on web writing.
With all the buzz around Web 2.0 technology, it’s easy to forget social media tools allow everyone to “write for the web”. It’s no longer a one way street. User comments are often more significant than the main posts. I’m Keith McDonald from the Web Centre team (City of Toronto). In this blog I’m going to lead discussion on writing well for the web – for content experts and comment experts. In short, we all have something to say … let’s say it well.
Web writing 101
I often joke that we haven’t dealt with web 1.0 very well, let alone web 2.0! In a writing sense that’s true but, oddly enough, the 2.0 push toward user interaction is actually making it easier to write for the web. How so? Many 2.0 tools force subscribers to write to a certain number of characters. Twitter is an extreme example where you must speak in 140 character bursts. Many comment boxes only allow a 500 word max for comments. Why is short better? If you’ve given up on this post already, you’ll know why short is best. Who has time to surf through massive amounts of text? Not many people on the web.
In coming posts, I’ll talk specifically about web writing techniques that allow you to get your content out there in ways people will read. Meantime, I’ll leave you with a challenge.
This text is a real example taken from our website. It’s old now but demonstrates our tendency to write high literacy and write long. Edit this text in a way you think is more “web friendly” – post your edits in the comment box and we can talk more about it.
Here’s the text:
The planning and Transportation Committee recommends the adoption of the confidential report (May 7, 2004) from the Commissioner of Urban Development Services and the City Solicitor regarding proposed settlements of appeals to the new Official Plan, which was forwarded to Members of council under confidential cover; and further that in accordance with the Municipal Act, discussions pertaining thereto be held in-camera as the subject matter relates to litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board.
Keith teaches the Web Writing Basic and Web Writing Advanced course through the HR Corporate Courses for the City of Toronto and also works with Centennial College in their Public Relations & Corporate Communicaitons post-graduate program (currently teaching Presentation Skills).
I’m a bit disappointed in myself. I thought I could make it much shorter but find it pretty difficult. I don’t have enough information to know whether or not I can exclude anything. This is really great and I, for one, appreciate what you’re doing.
– The Commissioner of Urban Development Services and the City Solicitor submitted a report regarding proposed settlements of appeals to the new Official Plan (May 7, 2004) to Members of council under confidential cover. The planning and Transportation Committee recommends its adoption. The Committee also states that, in accordance with the Municipal Act, all related discussions affecting the municipality or local board including administrative tribunals, be held in-camera. –
Great discussion. Chewy text. Let’s talk about this.
I think Twitter is great training for writing headlines. So is using “the six-word memoir” (tell your story in six words).
The Planning and Transportation Committee is supporting a confidential May 7, 2004 report from the Commissioner of Urban Development Services and the City Solicitor. The report discusses appeals to the new Official Plan. (If in fact that is the case – hard to discern from original copy.)
However, in keeping with the Municipal Act, any discussion about the report going forward will be on-camera.
I’ll take a few more edits before I comment back just to keep things interesting :0)
The Planning & Transportation Committee recommends adopting the Commissioner’s and Solicitor’s proposal for settlement of appeals to the new Official Plan. Also, any related committee discussions, including those affecting the municipality or local board, must be recorded on camera.
The confidential report (5//7/04) on how to settle appeals to the new Official Plan has been sent to the council. All discussions of the report must be held in official session.
City council members will go before cameras to decide whether to accept confidential recommendations from the city solicitor about when the municipality can be sued in court.