Space. Time. Shape. Interactive professor Jeremy Caplan used those three words to explain the differences in how we write for online or for print. In a follow-up to Trudy Lieberman’s discussion last week, we found Caplan’s descriptions quite useful in understanding the two forms.
First, the differences:
Space — A blog can be any length, from a very short post to a four-part series (or longer). You’re not restricted to a defined number of words, lines or space.
Time — In print, a story is a snapshot in time. It can be a powerful, evocative, provocative piece but it is bounded by what you know at a certain time. The online piece allows a story to evolve over time, and provides a natural place to update a situation and add new information. The format also allows multiple posts on the same subject over time.
Shape — Online is three-dimensional. You can see it, hear it, read it. Print is flat, one-dimensional (you can only read it although we might argue the best writing allows the reader to imagine, or see, the scene). Online gives the reporter more ways to tell the story.
What’s the same?
Storytelling, Caplan says. Whether online or print, your story needs a beginning, middle and end, with a protagonist (person, place, organization) and conflict or tension (some action that needs to be overcome, dealt with). In either form, if the content isn’t there, if the reporting isn’t there, it doesn’t work for the reader.
We also asked Interactive Professor Sandeep Junnarkar what he tells his students about blog writing. It’s useful advice:
* Be fair, accurate and balanced. Don’t have an axe to grind.
* Be level-headed. Don’t fire off wild opinions. It’s not only rash, it will hurt you when potential employers, or interview subjects, check your work.
* Be authoritative based on your reporting, not your opinion.
That’s something on which we can all agree, whatever form we’re writing in.