With the advent and perpetual evolution of the internet, writing has taken on a massive paradigm shift. Where any type of writing previously required a minimal amount of academic exposure and related practice, writing for the web requires neither of these. People with no academic training in writing can now be published, viewed, and shared by millions of people the world over. In the pre-internet days, the number of outlets for publishing a written work were relatively limited and dictated by the particular genre within which the writer was writing. Given the global reach of the internet, those limitations have all but disappeared. To quote Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Faster but not necessarily better
One of the things that the web has accomplished is it has put previously unimaginable amounts of information on virtually any topic at the fingertips of anybody who has web access. What that means for the writer is that being concise and succinct are of the utmost importance. If a piece is too long or too wordy, the writer will lose their reader who will move on to another piece on the same topic. If the piece was written with the idea of monetization and recurring revenue, a written piece that is too wordy, too long, or contains either too little or superfluous information can be deadly towards the final objective.
Page ranking algorithms
Prior to the internet, writing was strictly an art where the writer chose their words to communicate an idea or feeling, or multiples thereof. In this day and age of the web, search engines have specific algorithms (which they modify or update frequently) that are used to “direct” searchers towards a webpage or webpages containing information about the item being researched. Among other criteria, those search algorithms use keywords to help direct the searcher towards the information they are seeking. Writing with an eye towards targeting those keywords is called search engine optimization (SEO). Search engine optimization has become a critically important facet of successful commercial writing on the internet.
Unique writing style and format
There were four basic writing styles prior to the coming of the internet age. They are the expository, persuasive, descriptive, and narrative styles. Technical writing uses a truncated or abbreviated combination of the four writing styles. As writing for the web embraces the mentality where the writer says exactly what they mean in the fewest number of words possible, web writing is an evolved or morphed version of technical writing. It has become a new writing style where florid and/or verbose descriptors are eschewed in favor of grabbing the reader’s attention by getting right to the central point or theme.
New responsibilities as a function of independence
Previously, when a writer/author wanted to be published, their written work had to pass through a process. There would be a veritable “gauntlet” of people who read over the work, and either outright rejected it, or pass it on to the next person for their portion of the process. Proofreaders, fact checkers, associate editors, public relations consultants, and senior editors all took their “turn” at reviewing/revising the piece. Regardless of whether the piece was a full novel, an article for a periodical, or a technical piece for a related technical publication the process was substantial and there was a significant waiting period from the time of authorship to the time of publication. With internet writing, most of those people are eliminated from the process. The writer has to serve as their own editor, fact checker, proof reader, marketing department, etc. This results in a much short waiting period from the time the piece is written to the time when the piece is published and disseminated.