Crawford Kilian, Writing for the Web, 4th ed., Self-Counsel Press: Bellingham, WA, 2009.

I just finished reading Kilian’s Webwriting guide. I would enjoy teaching English from this text. Kilian does a good job of putting communication into our clickety-quick context.

Kilian maintains a good Webwriting blog with lots of useful resources. Here’s my summary of key points and resources from the text:

  1. The Interactive/Constructivist Communication Model: When you write online, you need to think beyond the standard instrumentalist model of communication. That model says your sender transmits a message to a receiver, with the intent of making the receiver do something. Kilian says nuts to that: online, you’re having a conversation. Sender and receiver constantly change roles, interacting to jointly construct message and meaning. Corporate writers often have a hard time getting this (see Chapter 6).
  2. 25% Slower: that’s the oft-quoted stat from Jakob Nielsen on how much more slowly we read online. Paper has better resolution than computer screens. Our screens are getting sharper, but even on the iPad and Kindle, Nielsen found reading speeds 6% to 10% slower than in printed books. Write acordingly online: keep it short (Kilian says 100 words max!).
  3. Orientation, Information, Action: These three principles should guide all writing. Online, first orient your readers: make it clear to them where they are and how to get around your site. Inform them: be clear and correct (spell things right!). Then direct them toward action, whether it’s leaving a comment, contacting Congress, donating money….
  4. Advocacy and Marketing: Chapter 8 concisely summarizes tips for persuasive writing. The section on propaganda types, myths, and devices could make nice bite-size handouts and classroom activities.

Some online style guides cited: