05. How to write for reading on screen

When a journalist writes, it is to have their work read. As with the traditional media (print, radio and television), the way in which content is written must be adapted to make it as digestible as possible for the readership.

On a screen, the reader’s attention must be engaged

This may seem counter-intuitive and yet it is a scientific reality: human beings do not read content on paper and content on a screen in the same way.

When reading on a screen, concentration is much more fragile, without taking into account the fact that there are many possible distractions (alerts, notifications, messages, etc.). One of the objectives of the way in which online content is written is to constantly engage the reader’s attention.

In concrete terms, this means using short paragraphs, regular headings and simple formulations. Visually, this resembles stacking up small blocks of information, with each of them being a paragraph containing one idea.

Multimedia content to provide variety in text breaks

The reader’s attention can also be engaged by using non-text content: photos, videos, graphics, etc. The online publishing tools used by newsrooms often make it possible to include simple lines of code, allowing such elements to be incorporated into the body of the text. However, it is important to ensure that you only use multimedia content for which you have broadcasting rights.

The hyperlink, an element that readers expect

The internet is built on the concept of hypertext links (or hyperlinks). Whenever you use an internet browser, without always noticing it, you navigate by clicking on these links. Readers expect to find these links in your content. 

Online, when a fact is mentioned, a hypertext link to an article relating to that fact is added. When a document or a video is mentioned, a hypertext link to that content is provided. Aside from consolidating the bond of trust that is needed between the reader and the journalist quoting their sources, this is also an important aspect of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which we will cover in section 6.