Magazine article Communication World

You'll Know a Bad One When You See It

Magazine article Communication World

You'll Know a Bad One When You See It

Article excerpt

Have you ever read an electronic newsletter? If so, you probably saw a word-processed document placed online without much formatting. That's essentially what many online newsletters are these days - and their publishers force readers to scroll through screen after screen of text.

These same publishers would never force readers of their paper versions to turn page after page of gray columns. With hundreds of years of experience with the printed page, we've learned what looks good and how to entice readers. So when you see scrolling text, think of it as a typewriter-produced newsletter, and look forward to the days when online publishers apply the technology to its fullest.

Then there are those online editors who merely scan in a printed publication that - if software standards and hardware protocol are favorable - pops up on the screen. Ready to squint?

Page design vs. screen design is certainly a concern, but the first stage in effective on-screen presentation occurs when writing or outlining the content. Consider the delivery and the audience. Consider the medium.

Writing for an online audience is, of course, different from writing a magazine article, a television documentary, or an executive speech. Electronic publishing has strengths and weaknesses, and as an online reader, you expect and deserve a publisher who understands the medium. When you are the publisher, whether it's for your E-mail, electronic newsletter, or information repository, use these guidelines to force you to think about the method of delivery:

Think horizontal

Most published pages are at least slightly vertical, and most computer screens are relatively horizontal. But for some reason, people fiddling around with electronic publishing try scanning in a tabloid page and displaying it online.

It doesn't fit. Besides, reading on the screen what you could read on paper doesn't make use of the strengths of computers (as you'll read more about here in a moment).

Is the alternative long, single-spaced lines of text that are hard to read? No. Look at a few of the popular CD-ROM multimedia titles for ideas.

Write 20-line chunks

Even small computer screens can hold about 20 lines of text these days - but sometimes no more. That's still enough space to tell your story. Do you have three points to make? List them. …

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