Online writing

Writing Online: Best Practices
Guidelines, tips, and hints for writing more effective web content. This is a wide-ranging article, but we hope it will help whether you are writing for a web page, email newsletter, action alert or anything else that will primarily be read online.

Following are some guidelines, tips, and hints for writing more effective web content. This is a wide-ranging article, but we hope it will help whether you are writing for a web page, email newsletter, action alert or anything else that will primarily be read online.

Do Not Copy Directly from Word!

MS Word and other word processors will add unwanted formatting information to your webpages. Paste content into Notepad (PC) or TextEdit (Mac) to remove the formatting first.Read this article for more information on this topic.

Keep it short!

Above all other advice, this is probably the most important point.  Online writing needs to be much shorter than other writing.  Research shows that people scan much more than they read every word.  Therefore, you want to make it easy for your visitors to scan for information quickly.

Subheadlines, lists and boldface make content easier to scan

Along with writing short, easily digestible chunks of text, you should also make good use of boldface, lists and subheadlines.  These elements help guide readers’ eyes towards the most important content, and make it easier to absorb large content.

Another way to break content up on a page is to use a bulleted list. Write a short sentence and then support it with bullet points. Example:

Here’s some ways you can reduce your carbon emissions:

  • Commute to work
  • Drive a fuel-efficient car
  • Turn your thermostat down when you leave the house
  • Turn lights off at work when you leave for the evening

You don’t need to end sentences in a bulleted list with a period. They tend to stop the eyes from scanning anyway.

Use hyperlinks effectively

Write short, to-the-point pages and link to other pages on or off your site to allow visitors to find more information. The average time new visitors spend on any one page is around 30 seconds. Take advantage of that short attention span by providing lots of links to explore.

Web usability experts discourage the use of the phrase “click here” for links. Instead use anaccurate description of the linked content worked into a sentence. For example, instead of

“To see our most recent annual report, click here”

try

“For more information, see our most recent Annual Report.”

This is a usability issue because if a vision-impaired person is using a web reader, “Annual Report” will tell them about the content, while “click here” gives them no real information about where the link will take them.

Build trust with citations

Many people are wary of linking off to other website for fear that their visitors will simply spend time on other sites instead of theirs. This is not necessarily so. You want people to think of your site and the center for good information whether that information lives on your website or not. The idea here is to build confidence in your site visitors that if they want information about a subject, they’ll come to you first. People prefer websites that provide “click worthy” links to good information.

It is particularly hard for people to assess the accuracy and quality of information they find online, so consider citing your sources whenever possible.

Use active voice

Never use a passive voice construction like “Marketing and communications plans are being developed.”  Instead, try “We are developing marketing and communications plans” that make it clear who is performing the activity.  Using the active voice is one of the best ways to write more clearly and more directly and to avoid getting caught in a dead, dry, bureaucratic voice.

Use “inverted pyramid” construction on top level pages

Sometimes called the “Model T” method, the idea here is to load your most important information at the top of the page and at the top level of your website. Often this is little more than a few sentences or bullet points. You are trying to capture the interest of your site visitors early on. Save the more specialized and lengthy pages for deeper levels of your site.

Downloadable file or webpage?

We all use word-processing software to generate at least some of our content. Often, web content is generated from a collection of various word processor documents, PDFs and spreadsheets.

When is appropriate to copy that content onto a webpage and when is it better to simply upload to original document so that your visitors can download it themselves?  It’s a difficult decision, with no clear right and wrong.

We suggest three criteria:

1) If the content is longer than about 10 printed pages, or intended to be read as a whole, you should probably post the document for download.  Few people have the patience to read such long documents online — they will probably print them out anyway.  Long documents often benefit from the additional formatting that you can do in print.  Finally, it can be very cumbersome to convert that much text to HTML.

2) If your original document contains complex graphics or layouts it is better to post it for download.  Complex documents generally can’t be faithfully rendered into standards-compliant HTML.

3) If your content is short and non-graphical, it is probably best to turn it into a straight-HTML webpage. It would be silly to make your visitors download a one-page Word document.  If you have a longer document that visitors may only want to read a short section of, you should consider breaking the document into a series of shorter HTML pages.

Freelance writing sites

Sites which pay upfront for articles

Constant Content

A site where writers can showcase their articles with a preset price tag and have interested publishers buy them. Has strict standards for submissions (free of grammar mistakes etc) so check to make sure that you are submitting a flawless article. If you have articles that you have published elsewhere before, you can still sell them for usage rights here.

DailyArticle
A site where you can showcase your articles and sell full ownership rights to them.

Seed
Seed is a relative newcomer to the scene, though the company behind it, AOL, is a name most of us have come across. They are currently paying quite well for articles, up to the range of a few hundred USD, though most of them are around the range of 30 USD for a word range of 400-500 words. I have to add though, that there have been concerns raised by members at some of the writers’ forums I visit. Only time will tell whether these concerns are valid, and of course, the name of AOL should count for something, but I just thought that i would mention this. Only available to US residents though.

Demand Studios
Offers upfront payments for articles. No passive income though and you lose your rights to your articles once they are published.

Textbroker
Only available to US residents. Pays on a “price per word” basis, with higher rated writers being able to command a higher price.

Bright Hub
Bright Hub is a science and technology content site. They’re currently paying writers $10 per article, in addition to future revenue sharing.

Words Of Worth
At Words of Worth, you enter into a contract with them, whereby you promise to deliver 10 to 80 articles in a month, depending on the contract, and they pay you £250. More details here

Experts123Experts123 employs a mix of upfront payment and revenue share for their payout structure. You’ll first have to signup as a user, then apply to be a Paid Contributor before you start earning. However, currently restricted to certain countries only.

Sites which let you earn passive income

Wikinut Wikinut is fairly new, having been started only in 2009. As the name might suggest, there’s a “wiki element” to it. Wikinut pages are moderated by users. (and yes, the payment structure is such that you get paid to moderate pages as well)

Triond
A site where you can publish your work and earn a passive income through page views generated by your articles. One of the better paying sites for passive income. Note: This was true in 2008, when I wrote the description for Triond. Things have changed since then, and while Triond is still one of the better paying sites, it now shares that postion with a few other sites. Here’s a link to an article which gives more details.
Update as of August 2011: Triond’s security certificate has expired since last month and communications with them convey the impression that they have no intention of renewing it. Triond has been going downhill for quite some time now, and I’m seriously considering taking them down from the list.

Squidoo
A site that lets you build your own web pages, called “lenses” on Squidoo and earn from them.

Hubpages
Another site that lets you build your own web pages and display your articles on them, letting you earn passive income.

Suite101
A site where you can publish your work and earn through page views. Requires writers to publish at least 10 articles every 3 months.

Shvoong
A site where you can publish your work and have them earn a passive income.

Redgage
A site where you can publish your work and have them earn a passive income.

A word of warning to non-US residents, Redgage pays via the Redgage Card, a debit card that they issue you when you get your first payment. They then transfer your earnings to you via your Redgage card. After the first transfer though, Redgage requires you to register on the giftcards site, which only US residents are entitled to. In other words, there’s a cap on your earnings.

Helium
Has an active marketplace where publishers will request specific articles and frequent contests, both of which offer writers the opportunity to earn lump sum payments. Articles published will generate passive income. However, Helium does require a fair amount of commitment from you each month, requiring writers to maintain at least one rating star to be eligible to earn. Update: As of Dec 2010, Helium’s upfront payments structure has changed.

Associated Content
Has contests every now and then, and specific article requests every now and then, so writers have a chance to earn lump sum payments. Also offers upfront payment for articles, but this is restricted to certain topics and only available to US citizens. Articles published will generate passive income.

Note: As of 1st of May 2010, Associated Content will cease to pay performance payments to non-US residents. Since non-US residents are not eligible for upfront payments, this effectively means that they will stop paying non-US residents (not sure about contests, but those aren’t frequent anyway). They do offer a way for non-US residents to be eligible for performance payments for articles, but you do have to jump through a lot of hoops. More details here

Qondio
Qondio is an interesting site. While it does allow you to earn Adsense revenue on your articles, the focus on Qondio seems to be to let you build backlinks. Every piece of intel that you submit has a backlink to the site of your choice. Used to be called Qassia.

Note: Starting from 14th March 2009, Qondio charges users a one time fee of $5USD to sign up an account.

Gzyn
Site that lets writers place their work there and generate revenue using Google Adsense. Takes a 10% cut from your profits.

Bukisa
Another Google Adsense revenue sharing site.

Xomba
Xomba lets writers place their work there and generate revenue from Google Adsense. Adsense profits are split 50/50 between the site and writers. That doesn’t sound very attractive, but Xomba makes up for that with frequent contests where writers stand to win cash prizes. In addition, Xomba articles can also be used to generate backlinks to your other blog/site/other articles.

Infobarrel
Launched in mid 2008, Infobarrel is a site where you can post your articles and earn 75% of your Adsense revenue. They also have an Ebay affililiate program.

Sites where publishers will post job requests

Online Writing Jobs Site with job listings for writers

Genuine Jobs
You’ll have to sign up as a member to access the job listings. Membership is free.

Writing Career.com
Has a section devoted to job listings for writers.

Sunoasis
More suitable for US residents, as most jobs are based in the US. There are a few jobs that require writers in other places like the UK or Canada, or even internationally but writers will have to sieve through lots of job offers to find those.

iFreelance
A site where writers can bid on job offers.

Elance
A site where writers can bid on job offers.

Get A Freelancer
A site where writers can bid on job offers.

Writing Bids
A bidding site where writers can bid on job offers.

Writers Weekly
Has a section devoted to job listings for writers.

Freelance Writing Gigs
Has a section devoted to job listings for writers.

Funds For Writers

oDesk
A site where writers can bid on job offers.

Journalism Jobs
Site with job listings for writers.

Writer’s Market
Paid subscription needed for this site. They do however offer a free trial period.

Editorial Freelancers Association
Paid membership needed.

Freelance Daily
Has a daily newsletter with job listings. Offers a free trial period of 1 week, after which you have to pay $3.95 per month for subscription.

Freelance Free
Site where writers can bid on job offers. Quite a lot of these appear to only want Indian writers.

PoeWar.com

Get A Coder
Although much of the assignments here are programming based assignments, you can still find freelance writing jobs here. You can filter your search results to only show writing assignments.

Writerlance

Guru
A site where writers can bid on job offers.

Online Writing Jobs.net

Freelance Writing

Craigs List
While you can find some freelance writing gigs on Craigs List, you do have to be careful about which requests you answer to. Quite a number of them are just attempts to get your e-mail so they can send spam to you.

Blogs and Forums

Accentuate Writers Forum 
A forum with a section devoted to writing leads. Leads posted there tend to pay quite well.

Freelance Writing Income From Home
A blog by Bianca Raven, a freelance writer with several years of experience currently earning a yearly six figure income. Good writing leads are posted there every now and then, and she also blogs about other writing related stuff

About Freelance Writing
A blog about freelance writing with job postings, and reviews on writing sites.

Absolute Write
Has a free newsletter listing jobs for writers. Also has a forum section devoted to paid writing assignments.

Writing For Dollars
Not really a blog or forum per se. Has a wealth of information for writers, job listings, and a newsletter.

WAHMs WHo Write
I have to admit that I have been late in adding this one, mainly because I’m not a WAHM (Work at Home Mom). Still the leads and information in this forum are relevant to all writers, even if you aren’t a WAHM.

Write And Earn A Living
A writing-related blog offering tips and tricks about freelance writing.
Has a job listings section.

Note: the page may take a long time to load.

Sites which specialise in certain writing categories

About.com About.com’s compensation plan for their Guides and Contributing Writers cap it at a minimum of $500 a month and $250 a month respectively. This is adjusted upwards based on pageview growth. Contributing Writers are required to publish at least 12 pieces of content every month.

Firehow
To put it in their own words , “FireHow is a how-to article website “. Only pays US residents.

How to Do Things.com
Another site that publishes “How to” articles.

Tutorial Tub
A site which lets you earn by displaying your tutorials (another way of calling “How To” articles) and earning through Google Adsense.

Newsvine
A site that publishes only news articles.

Ground Report
Another site that only accepts news articles.

Student Network Resources
This site specialises in “research work”. Note: Writing student term papers is seen by quite a lot of people as unethical. However, if you really must write term papers, (though I cannot fathom why) then at least write for a site that won’t cheat you. There are far too many paper mills around that cheat writers. Academia-research, for example.

Storymash
A site specialising in works of fiction.

Wisebread
A site that focuses mainly on financial topics, though it does publish articles that focuses on other issues.

Letter Rep
As you might guess from the name, this site focuses only on letter assignments.

Review Sites

Review Party
A review site, this site lets you earn by letting you place Amazon affiliate links and Google Adsense on your reviews.

Epinions
Another review site. Pays $10 for 10 reviews. While the site does pay to non-U.S residents, only U.S residents are eligible for the contests held by the site. Payout is also set higher for non-U.S residents.

Ciao
You earn on this review site whenever another member reads and rates your reviews.

Dooyoo
Available only to residents of Germany, UK, Italy, Spain and France.

Rate It All
It’s kind of a cross between a social networking site and review site. But then, most review sites do have some sort of social networking element.

Shared Reviews
A site publishing product reviews, This site ran into funding problems during 2008 and had to put it’s revenue sharing program on hold. It has since started to pay it’s members again though.

Other sites

Sites here are either sites that I haven’t decided where they would belong to on my list, or sites that I have yet to take a close look at

Gather

Buzzle

Help Your Money

Oocuz

Blog Posts For Sale

Common Ties

Oondi

Knol

About freelance writing

Perhaps you can string sentences together. Perhaps you’re the next Hemingway. But you’ll never pay the bills as a freelance writer without a whole lot of business savvy thrown in. Here are the skills you need NOW.

1. Money Savvy

Freelance writers must manage their money well. This includes several different needs. You need to know how to pay the least amount of taxes. You need to be both aggressive and realistic about your writing rates. You need to be a hard-nosed collection agent when it behooves you. Basically, you need to know your worth and act on it. No writing for pennies (and especially not half-pennies!) per word! No wishy-washy collections, and no sloppy record keeping!

2. Ability to be Picky

Along with the above, freelance writers must be picky. Do not accept every assignment. Do not accept grunt work. Do not take on work that will drain the life out of you and leave you with very few hours to market yourself, do your collections and look for better work. This just becomes a vicious cycle. If you find yourself jumping on every assignment, perhaps you’ve started freelancing at the wrong time in your life. Pouring hours into low level jobs WILL NOT advance your freelance writing career. It will, instead, burn you out early, leaving you poor and back in the cubicle.

3. Consistency

What I mean by this is keeping a consistent schedule. I’ve seen too many freelancers who cycle depending on their financial needs. They’ll work themselves into a sweat when there are bills to be paid, and then cycle down when the money is rolling in. This is just a vicious cycle. In addition, professional businesses have set hours in which their clients can contact them. You are a professional business, aren’t you?

4. A Professional Image

Freelance writers who want to be taken seriously establish a brand that gives their customers confidence and projects a sharp image. They network that image, and make themselves known.

5. Ability to Think in Terms of Multiple Returns

Successful writers keep payment in mind, yes, but there are more and different returns to be had in assignments. For example, keep in mind potential for future work, potential recommendations, and the likelihood of references. Professional writers know which assignments pay dividends in recommendations and references, and go after those assignments first.

6. Insider’s Knowledge

Successful freelance writers have insider’s knowledge about the business. They keep their ears open in freelance writing communities, read their colleagues’ blogs, and go to conferences and training events to rub elbows. This helps the business in many aspects. They learn what rates are being charged, what companies and editors to go after (or avoid), what magazines are going bankrupt, what is working for their competitors, and what simply isn’t.

7. Ruthlessness

Successful freelane writers can be ruthless. They should keep an attorney in their pocket, and know when to go after non-payers. They should watch for plagiarizers, as they know that’s money straight out of their pockets. They know that their clients are clients, not friends, and don’t put up with creeping projects or freebie “extras.” They play hardball when they want a particular client- even if one of their colleagues are also competing for the same client.

8. Organization Skills

Professional writers know that organization helps with all of the above. Those who track clients have a ready-to-go marketing list. Those who track hours know exactly what to charge for any kind of project. Those who track expenses never over-pay on their taxes. Disorganization costs money and time and is a sign of an amateur.

Introduction On Writing

Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols (known as a writing system). It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.

Writing most likely began as a consequence of political expansion in ancient cultures, which needed reliable means for transmitting information, maintaining financial accounts, keeping historical records, and similar activities. Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration outgrew the power of memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form. In both Ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica writing may have evolved through calendrics and a political necessity for recording historical and environmental events.

Writing as a category

Writing, more particularly, refers to two things: writing as a noun, the thing that is written; and writing as a verb, which designates the activity of writing. It refers to the inscription of characters on a medium, thereby forming words, and larger units of language, known as texts. It also refers to the creation of meaning and the information thereby generated. In that regard, linguistics (and related sciences) distinguishes between the written language and the spoken language. The significance of the medium by which meaning and information is conveyed is indicated by the distinction made in the arts and sciences. For example, while public speaking and poetry reading are both types of speech, the former is governed by the rules of rhetoric and the latter by poetics.

A person who composes a message or story in the form of text is generally known as a writer or an author. However, more specific designations exist which are dictated by the particular nature of the text such as that of poet, essayist, novelist, playwright, journalist, and more. A translator is a specialized multilingual writer who must fully understand a message written by somebody else in one language; the translator’s job is to produce a document of faithfully equivalent message in a completely different language. A person who transcribes or produces text to deliver a message authored by another person is known as a scribe, typist or typesetter. A person who produces text with emphasis on the aesthetics of glyphs is known as a calligrapher or graphic designer.

Writing is also a distinctly human activity. Such writing has been speculatively designated as coincidental. At this point in time, the only confirmed writing in existence is of human origin

Character Values

One is the Chinese character for the first syllable of my son’s name, and the other means perseverance. I had asked a manicurist in Tokyo to write one on each thumb a few months ago, just before I was sending my 12-year-old son off to boarding school in America. I anticipated loneliness and hoped they would remind me to endure for the sake of the boy.

Amazons Jungle Logic

I FIRST heard of Amazon™s new promotion from my bookseller daughter, Emily, in an e-mail with the subject line Can You Hear Me Screaming in Brooklyn? According to a link Emily supplied, Amazon was encouraging customers to go into brick-and-mortar bookstores on Saturday, and use its price-check app (which allows shoppers in physical stores to see, by scanning a bar code, if they can get a better price online) to earn a 5 percent credit on Amazon purchases (up to $5 per item, and up to three items).