A Core Web-Writing Workshop for Singapore + ASEAN Online Audiences.

When we discuss writing for the web, we’re actually studying human behaviour online — how our audiences consume and react to all of our content on the web, via mobile, and in digital, and virtual reality spaces. To become an expert in web-writing is to recognise, rethink, and reshape traditional writing practices to fit with online content expectations and engagement. Let’s learn about writing for the web, by drawing first on the wisdom of the crowd.

Go to Writing for the Web Workshop [+] or continue reading this article.

Writing to a wider web.

Remember that feeling when you read something, watched a video, or listened to a song, and experienced that tingly sensation running down your spine? That special feeling is a neuro response to something that is moving, evocative — or put another way, engaging. It feels good. That response is an extremely high form of human engagement, something many content creators aspire to produce. This response is called an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) and is gaining traction in its form and function as online content evolves to become more humanised. In other words, after consuming online content we want to feel good.

Writing for a bigger world.

There’s a massive trend online, with YouTube leading the charge, to produce content that draws on ASMR. A simple Google search on ASMR will reveal massive amounts of favourable data from studies by brands, technology, and content companies. If anything, such studies make it abundantly clear that writing for the web is not about applying simplistic techniques of language and outdated structures, the kind stuffy web-marketers employed back in the 1990s. Instead, writing for the web is the practice of creating experiential content for users — content that stimulates and humanises engagement.

Writing for which web?

The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built, that humanity doesn’t understand.
~ Eric Schmidt

Before we get started writing anything for the web, most of us will have a good idea of the topicality of our content — what it discusses, for whom it’s for, and the point we’d like to make. Few of us will also consider how the medium of the web changes these answers when compared to writing for offline channels. The web is a medium, and like all media (think of light passing through glass blocks and prisms) it reflects, refracts and fragments the information coming through it.

Depending on the type of web channel we choose, our content may end up skewed, re-directed, or sub-divided into multiple viewpoints that reveal more than what we intended. The best content written for the web always takes into account the variability of the medium in which our words will live and pass through. Our first step in becoming web content experts is to then recognise that content (words, images, videos) does not exist in a vacuum but is influenced by the medium through which it passes. In other words, it’s not just the content we produce, but the web channel we choose to drive our content’s intended meaning.

Web-Writing Course: Exercise 1
Pick an existing article from a news website that interests you and re-write it as a post on Google+ or Facebook. What were the differences (if any) you found when re-writing the article as a post on a social medium? What features (length, voice, expressions) did you change when re-writing the article? Why do you think these changes (if any) occurred? So what’s the difference between writing an article for the web, and writing a post for social media?

The web writes back.

The Internet is allowing what used to be a monologue to become a dialogue. I think that’s healthy.
~ Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The Internet is an interactive space, and an international hive. That much may be obvious to all of us. Yet when writing for the web, so many will simply extend traditional writing practices to online media. How do you suppose that plays out? When we speak to the Internet, the Internet talks back. When we write for the web we’re having a conversation, and the rules for great conversations expressly prohibit monologues — no hogging allowed. Think about the number of web pages that do just this — treat audiences as passive recipients of a monologue. The rules and restrictions of traditional media are different from the web, and so too should be our style of communication. When writing for the web, we are engaging audiences (real people with feelings).

Engagement requires a minimum of two, which means we’re in the realm of dialogues. So when writing for the web, write how you would have a conversation. Follow your natural speaking rhythms and patterns and you will find you already have an in-built mechanism to regulate your web-writing strategies. Word of Caution: Don’t forget rule number one. The web is a multi-layered communications platform, which means there are channels that allow, even dictate, monologues. Pay attention to which medium your web content is passing through, then write for that medium’s sub-rules. But remember also the general rule for writing for the web: default to writing for conversations when creating online content.

Web-Writing Course: Exercise 2
Pick an article from Wikipedia. You will find most Wikipedia articles are written in report format that allow very little dialogue. Re-write the article (or just one section) in a conversational format. What changed (if anything) in your style of writing? Which web medium do you feel your re-written section is more applicable to?

We the people have no excuse for starry-eyed sycophantic group-think in the Information Age. Knowledge is but a fingertip away.
~ Tiffany Madison

The web has priorities.

Everybody assumes, when they wake up in the morning, if they have a question, it will get answered.
~ Jack White

Put another way, people consume information first before consuming a product or service. Writing for the web is about contributing to the store of information, not detracting from it. It used to be okay to use the introduction-suspense-climax-denouement approach when writing web articles. That was back in the 1990s. It’s not okay any more. Most people online are searching for answers. Give it to them, right away. That means putting your most important points first, front, and forward. Writing for the web is about balancing your content hierarchy with your readers’ query hierarchies. Just about every major poll on online consumption patterns indicates that people expect their answers within ten seconds, regardless of whether your web content is in the form of words, images, videos or podcasts.

That’s why click bait isn’t worth the glitter around the button. Facebook recently began an initiative to remove click-bait type articles and posts from its news feeds, and Google’s been coming down hard on content that it considers to be a waste of reader response times. Writing for the web is not about implementing the pulp novel model. Instead, great online content flows parallel to human expectations online, serving up quickly and exactly what people ask for. In other words, put the punchline first and people will thank you for it. Don’t let your website become a joke.

Web-Writing Course: Exercise 3
Find a web page that leaves its important information towards the middle or the end and re-write the content so that the most important points come first. What are the problems (if any) you faced when re-prioritising content hierarchies? What techniques did you use to make important web content stand out? Do you think designing a web page with content hierarchies makes a difference to search results?

Of the people. For the people.

I dislike the phrase ‘Internet friends,’ because it implies that people you know online aren’t really your friends, that somehow the friendship is less real or meaningful to you because it happens through Skype or text messages.
~ John Green

Speaking of people, it’s a human being at the other end, reading your web content, and building a relationship with you, the author and a person. So often we make the mistake of writing to our screens, because that’s what faces us. So it’s easy to forget that the one doing the reading is not a computer or a server but a human being. What’s worse, we’re often dazzled by terms like search engine optimisation, and content techniques, so much so that we end up writing for robots, not real readers. Let’s clear this up. Google’s search algorithm is one of the world’s best kept secrets, and for good reason. They don’t want usurpers gaming the system. What Google does make very clear is that page priority is based on people behaviour. In other words, the robots go where the people go.

That is why you can have a web article with 3000 words, and that will rank higher than one with 30,000 words on the same topic. Google has over 400,000 signals just for manual determination of the authenticity of a web page and its content. So don’t bother too much with trying to impress the robots. Write for people. There is a real, live human being who is actively cultivating a relationship with you based on the contents of your website. Don’t treat your readers like robots, not when readers decide how robots behave. Write for people — the human beings with whom we build, share, and grow this amazing network. Writing for the web has and always will be about creating content that people want to read. So here is where you take all of your offline relationship rules and apply them to the media of the web. Writing for the web is writing for real, complete people with feelings.

Web-Writing Course: Exercise 4
Check out Google’s articles on search and human behaviours. What does Google prioritise repeatedly in all their articles on creating amazing web content? How many websites follow Google’s advice? Choose any topic that interests you and write it purely for a friend or family member, ignoring any so-called SEO techniques. Use the guidelines given here and on Google. How did you feel about writing your web article? What challenges did you face when writing for the web but focusing on human beings?

We are still in the very beginnings of the Internet. Let’s use it wisely.
~ Jimmy Wales

Web-writing is empathetic.

I want the entire smartphone, the entire Internet, on my wrist.
~ Steve Wozniak

Paper comes in several dimensions and over the years we’ve learnt to standardise their sizes. Screens do that as well, except we are still in the early stages of the web. Yet the evolution of the screen as the primary source of consuming web content is rapidly achieving parity, governed by human behaviour. Mobile is the clear trend for consuming web content and tech companies are paying attention to its metamorphosis. The content we create has to adapt to the screens they live on. That means the stuff we write for the web has to communicate equally comfortably on a widescreen desktop, a tablet, and a watch. Consider how your content will look on the different devices that provide web content accessibility. We’re moving towards relatively very small and very large screens of amazing clarity. Consider, for example, the possibility of replacing lengthy words with images or videos that still get the message out without the hassle of unnecessary scrolling and swiping. Writing for the web is as much about the type of content as it is its message.

Speaking of accessibility, don’t forget we live in a people world, and not all people have complete utility of their senses. Your web content must integrate with the web technologies that allow people of all circumstances to access the Internet. Don’t just assume the browser or the device will do the job for you. Ensure that the content you create is 100% compatible with the devices you are deploying on. This means sometimes changing words around to aid in better pronunciation from the screen readers, or writing alt tags into all of your images, and close-captioning all your videos. Writing for the web is a lot more than just pushing words to websites. It’s also about understanding the human condition and adjusting your web content to provide the best possible experience.

Web-Writing Course: Exercise 5
Choose a web article and re-tell it using only images or video. What are the challenges you can anticipate from such a strategy? (e.g. time in production, costs etc.). Why do you think Facebook mutes videos in its news feed? Do close captions matter more today? Why has YouTube spent so much effort on creating automatic close captions for its videos? Is the technology becoming better at recognising native human language in all accents? Where do you think such an initiative is leading to, and how will such change affect our purpose when writing for the web?

Web content is web intent.

Deşi internetul nu are graniţe administrative, el are totuşi graniţe de mentalitate, comportament şi manifestare diferită.
(While the Internet has no administrative borders, it still has borders for mentality, behaviour, and different manifestations.)
~ Lilia Calancea

In creating content for the web, we have to ask ourselves if we are unbiased producers or self-referential creators. In other words, are we publishing web content for form, function, or both? Each answer will have interesting ramifications. If we are publishing online content for form (aesthetics and pleasure) then the only opinion that matters is that of the publisher. As in matters of art, content produced for form is consumed subjectively, and appreciation for its nature is independent of the publisher’s practice. The consumer is presented with the published piece, but that is all, and is left to entirely decide on its applicability and appeal. If on the other hand we are publishing content for function (to serve a purpose or fulfil a goal) then the definition of what that purpose or goal is must logically precede the act of publishing. For what reason(s) are we publishing a piece? Is it to gain followers online, generate interest in our online articles, attract attention, deter actions, or build loyalty from the vast stores of the web commons? As in matters of design, content produced for function is assessed objectively. If we don’t know our reasons for publishing content or fail to grasp the efficacy of these reasons, then we have no objective result, and are back to publishing for form, only this time without realising it.

This in itself is a problem, but there is a bigger one. If we are creating content to satisfy a purpose, then who’s purpose are we satisfying? Is it the publisher of the content, or the recipients of it? Finally, if we are publishing content for form and function, then we are faced with the marriage of issues that arise in both. Which do we prioritise? Or do we give each equal weightage? If so, then how do we decide which parts of our content conform to the rules of art, and which to design? As anyone with experience producing content will attest, creating content is hardly a matter of penning a paragraph or scripting a story. It is a multi-dimensional activity that requires balancing and refitting several variables (audience, language, brand standards, length, medium, style, tone-of-voice, technology, rich media, expectations, pacing, and experiences to name a few) into a cohesive, unified message. In this soup of transmission, it is easy to lose sight of what content is, so this is where we take back control with an equation: content + intent + context = meaning.

Web-Writing Course: Exercise 6
Have you read an article online and not known immediately or afterwards what exactly it meant? Alternatively have you read an article that makes perfect sense? Re-read these articles and decide whether the intention of thr author came through clearly? Do you think the intention of the author should be part of all content written for the web?

Less, but better.
~ Dieter Rams

The web is an actor and an audience.

We can for a time find ourselves strangers in a very strange land, wishing we could return to the comforts of a more insular and familiar worldview. Yet when we get beyond the shutterings of our local cultural trance, we gain the courage to nurture the emerging forms of the possible human and the possible society.
~ Jean Houston

Stories are a staple of human-to-human communication just because they place characters at the forefront of the narrative. Stories are all about direction, pace, point, and space for imagination. How a story evolves is, in so many ways, how our own lives unfold offline and online, and we can see ourselves — or at least a few of our traits and circumstances — in them. Stories connect with us on an aspirational level with a clear juxtaposition of where we are, versus where we want to be. In other words, aspiration is the goal of a beautiful story that wants telling. Aspiration is ingrained into our psyches so that communicating aspiration goes beyond words, to images, video, podcasts, animation, and other forms of rich media. In all cases, it is not the web medium that carries the message of aspiration, but the aspirational quality of the message itself. This is not to say that the web medium is not of significance; instead it comes down to a matter of finding and following a process for storytelling on the web.

When writing for the web, the active inclusion of humanised communication makes us active participants in a dialogue, rather than staid recipients of a monologue. We keep meaningful conversations going online. So rule 1 is to always create avenues for further interaction between your web content and its intended web audiences. There’s a difference between monologues and dialogues. Going back to section 2, in digital writing, we are always designing content for someone else besides ourselves. Our work is inherently a dialogue. We cannot afford to not take control of this dialogue, or just assume the content we put online will generate engagement. So how do we create humanised content? By telling a story. Like authors, web writers are storytellers, and like authors, web writers rely on a specific set of professional tools and skills that drive stories across digital mediums. Web content creators are no longer the aggressive advertisers of the previous millennium, pushing messaging across screens and speakers. Today our role as online creators is more akin to journalists and editors — people who provide stories and perspectives on everything, from parallel quantum computers and astrophysics (think of how Stephen Hawking has made cosmology into a household word) to medical solutions and beach vacations.

As web content creators, our rules are tried and tested when it comes to telling stories. Among these is the one that tells us where to look for stories. There are more stories in your organisation than any external digital agency can hope to come up with. But who is going to bring these stories out? Your organisation’s digital ambassadors are responsible for telling your stories. So do your brand and organisation a massive favour: create a culture of content.

Web-Writing Course: Exercise 7
There’s always something interesting going on in your organisation. Find a topic and write it as you would any story. THe mark of a good online story is to include characters that humanise your content. Focus on writing your story as you would like to read it, or have it read to you. Share your story with your organisation before putting it online. What feedback did you receive from your organisation? What feedback (if any) did you receive from your web audiences? How does storytelling for the web compare with storytelling for print? What are the most pressing challenges that deter audiences from reading your web stories?

The web is you.

Because if you can’t be your own weird self on the internet, where can you be? And what would be the point?
~ Felicia Day

Remember who was Times Person of the Year in 2006? You. The you-centric culture of the web had been established for some time before, so when Times decided to put out its article, the world was ready to embrace its new hero. We, the people, are responsible for the contents of our web. We produce more content every day than the aggregate of all content in previous years. Yet the practice of telling stories remains a vital part of our culture so it’s no surprise that stories are the go-to format for writing for the web. Now comes the formalisation of stories with the ‘you’ culture, and that’s what drives phenomenal web content. Picking up from point 4, a review on Facebook, Twitter, or TripAdvisor is nothing more than a web story that wants to be read, understood and replied to. Give your users this response and chances are they will engage with you at a higher level. In replying to a review or comment on your web article, instead of providing cookie-cutter responses (which by the way are not web stories, nor interactive, nor human-driven), try replying in the following format: Start by introducing yourself and your position. This gives your online audiences an anchor and puts an image of the person in their minds. Establish the human within. Acknowledge, in their words, what the problems are or what good points were highlighted. It’s important to phrase your response in the words that your customers have chosen. This demonstrates empathy.

Where and when necessary, genuinely apologise or accept praise for only those issues that went wrong or right, respectively. In other words, keep conversations of emotional nature specific and authentic. This is particularly true for online content which, though more voluminous than print, is incredibly easier to find and share. Avoid blanket apologies or acknowledgments of good deeds. They are impersonal and serve little effect. Include the person in the conversation by asking for their suggestions and opinions. Make them responsible for their words and they will engage with you on the grounds of empathy. Explain yourself the way you would speak. Invite further conversation by making it personal. This can be something as simple as offering a tip on the city’s attractions — something we usually reserve for friends as inside information. In other words become a source of knowledge for them through yourself as a social force online. Above all, keep it human and understand that the tone of voice and voice of words (diction) is a reflection of the person on the other end. Read between the lines and attempt to create a complete picture of who this person is — likes, dislikes, wants, needs — then write to this complete person.

Web-Writing Course: Exercise 8
Re-write a corporate or technical article (preferably but not necessarily from your own organisation) in your own words and style. Ignore any brand standards for the time being and focus on getting your point of view out. Is it easy to write while also being authentic? When writing for the web your content is judged by thousands if not millions of users. Does this make it easier to be yourself given the anonymity the web offers, or does it make it more difficult? Why do you think people trust the reviews of friends more than they do the websites of the service providers? Why do you think this distrust exists? How would you fix it when writing for the web?

1.7 billion, of the Internet’s 2.4 billion users, are in Asia.
~ Lifewire

This article is updated regularly. Please revisit or bookmark this page for more insights. Learn more about writing for the web at Quantico’s flagship web-writing course, ‘Introduction to Web-Writing Workshop’ (iWWW). Attend Writing for The Web Workshop [+]


iWWW (Writing for the Web Workshop) Schedule 2017.

Writing for the web workshops listed under this schedule are confirmed and will run as scheduled.


Web-Writing Workshop (Jan 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (Feb 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (Mar 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (Apr 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (May 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (Jun 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (Aug 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (Sep 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (Oct 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

Web-Writing Workshop (Nov 2017)
Writing For The Web Workshop in Singapore
16 Collyer Quay #20-00 049318 Singapore
Quantico Training Centre

Lead Instructor: Arjun Khara

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A – F

AccorHotels Asia Pacific
AccorHotels Greater China
AccorHotels Hong Kong
ACE Insurance
Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group
Agency for Integrated Care
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Art Science Museum (ASM)
Asia Pacific Maritime Trade Show
Asia Television Forum
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Fullerton Financial Holdings

G – N

Gems Advisors (Asia) Pte Ltd
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Hai’s Pte Ltd
Havas Media Pte Ltd
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Ikeda Spa
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Make It Work
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National Youth Council Singapore (NYC)
Navis Capital
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Nippon Paint

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Offset SG
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PSA Corporation Ltd
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Singapore Zoo
Singtel Telecommunications Pte Ltd
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ST Electronics
Standard Chartered Bank
Trend Micro Inc
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Vantage Point
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Wesley Methodist Church
Wildlife Reserves Singapore
WineTime Singapore
Workforce Development Agency (WDA)
Zurich Insurance
100% Design Singapore
8i Holdings Ltd