Writing Web Content - Where Do You Learn to Write?

16 February 2011
paper and pen - writing web content
The fluid and open nature of the World Wide Web has given birth to a new breed of writers.

Today, you will find a number of individuals who make a living from writing web content: articles, blogs, sponsored tweets, Craigslist ads, sales pages and fan fiction.

Not all writers graduated with a journalism or mass communication degree. Very few went past the required English language credits.

Interestingly, they are able to pump decent content day after day like well-oiled machines. Where and how did they learn to write (and profitably at that)?

Venues for Learning and Improving Your Writing Skills

There's no doubt that experience is the best teacher. Still, wouldn't it be great that you arm yourself with adequate skills before you venture into the competitive world of freelancing?

Below are some places where you can learn to write for an audience:

  1. English Classes

    Web content writing is different from formal composition writing. Nevertheless, traditional classroom instruction is far from dead. Take advantage of the fact that you have a professor who can answer your questions on the nuts and bolts of the English language.

    What you'll learn: the fundamentals of the English language, subject-verb agreement, pronoun and antecedent use, proper punctuation

  2. Internship Programs

    In exchange for working with an online team or a media writing outfit, you'll receive free training. Affiliating yourself with an online team would prep you up for web content writing, while working with traditional print media will give you a solid grasp of press release writing (and etiquette).

    Don't expect to be spoon-fed though, so put your observation skills to good use.

    What you'll learn: the discipline needed to succeed anywhere, some idea of applicable writing standards, bragging rights and a few extra lines of work experience to add to your resume

  3. E-books and Online Writing Resources

    Some individuals give away e-books to bait you into signing up with a site or purchasing a product. Others hand the publication unconditionally in an effort to increase their online clout.

    Regardless of the writers' own reasons or reputation, e-books are a great resource for getting an actual feel of online writing tasks and requirements.

    What you'll learn: an insider's view of the ins and outs of the writing business, some tips on writing web content (but don't expect the information to be free for all)

  4. Forums

    Mingling with a community of writers allows you to openly exchange and receive information. If you've got nothing to contribute, you can still invite yourself in the forums and play the role of a curious observer.

    What you'll learn: first-hand information on what worked for one writer and what might work well for you too, leads to freelance writing opportunities, and caveats about online job scams and terrible employers

  5. Seminars and Conferences

    Seminars and conferences combine the authority of mentors, the credibility of actual writers , the applicability of theories in books, and the open interaction you get to enjoy from forums.

    Information doesn't always come free at seminars though. Below is a snippet of the e-mail I got from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Please note that this is not a paid review or endorsement.

    If only the US visa application were easier, I'd be packing my bags and asking my folks to book me a flight to New York!

    ASJA writers' conference
    Learn to write for profit. Writing conferences and seminars like this
    offer useful how-to's and rich insider information for newbies and
    seasoned writers alike.

Food for Thought

Some seasoned writing veterans are lamenting that the grand opening of the Information Highway ushered in the age of web content writing which delivers oversimplified content.

While there is still a demand for scholarly writing, things have gotten less academic and more reader-driven in cyberspace. 

Granting that you cannot fit everything within your schedule and resources, what do you think is the best way to learn to write for an online audience?
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