Web Editing Resources?
November 2, 2010 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Help Me Be A Good Web Editor! Please? Hi! The media outlet where I work has recently started a news web site, and I'm the editor. I have a vague idea of what I'm doing, but the actual copyediting-type-stuff I've been doing to AP print standards. I don't have a specific question, but generally, I'd really like to get some of the "official" basics of web editing down. I looked on mediabistro and they don't seem to have a class for this, and I looked on Amazon but I'm not sure about those books. Any suggestions for resources? I'd love either a class or a book that's as useful as the AP Guide, but for print. Your thoughts, hivemind?
posted by supercoollady to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My only feedback would be as an end user of sites that contain news.

Three things that really, really piss me off about news sites:
1. The web is not paged media. Your article can be as long or as short as it needs to be and it can still fit on one page. Don't make it multiple pages because that is a freakin' turn-off. It just makes it really, really obvious you are trying to force a paged format on me in an attempt to increase ad revenue. If you want greater ad revenue, start with better content and a clean layout, and I'll come back more often.

2. Links. This is what the web is made from. But you need to use them correctly. When you are discussing a story, and there is a chance to link to relevant content, do it. For example, news stories that discuss a specific website should link to that site, preferably in a sidebar similar to the "external links" box that BBC News drops into articles (with a disclaimer that these aren't your sites and you aren't responsible for content, if that makes your legal staff happy). Please resist the urge to link to internal stories in-text. I see a lot of articles that mention, say, Facebook, and the word "Facebook" is a link, but clicking on it takes me to another story about Facebook rather than to the site itself. This is unexpected. A link marked "Google" should take me to Google, not to another story. Doing otherwise is going to tick off users (because it looks like you are trying to trick people) and really tick off people using assistive technologies (because the link text is intentionally misleading). If you need to do this, append related links at the end of the article. Links that are integrated with the story text are usually distracting and are best left to sites that think every keyword in a story needs to be hotlinked to an advertisement.

3. Overall layout and non-text content. In print you are limited in terms of space, which in turn affects column width, image size, and so on. The web doesn't have this constraint. The absolute best thing I can think of would be to let the content dynamically resize based on the user's browser window width. CSS columns are awesome for browsers that support this, and I encourage you to try to get the layout folks to implement them. (Yes, they are still considered "experimental" but they rock and are fairly widely implemented in new browsers.) For images, by all means include small images as thumbnails, but link these to larger images so that people can click on them to see the big version. And don't skimp on the big size. Way, way too often I see a graph or something, and it's so small as to be illegible, but clicking on it gives me a marginally larger version that is STILL illegible. Don't do this.

Other than that, I don't know why the copyediting itself should be much different than print. I think that by understanding it ISN'T print out of the gate, you are actually ahead of the game.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:06 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might find something of interest at Poynter and their NewsU.
posted by sageleaf at 12:37 PM on November 2, 2010

Thanks for the suggestions and Poynter is a great one. Don't know why I didn't think of that before. Keep 'em coming! Is there a web AP guide? (I haven't seen one but forgive me if I'm just having a huge blind spot).
posted by supercoollady at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2010

The new 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style also has a lot of helpful web editing information.
posted by mattbucher at 2:12 PM on November 2, 2010

Jakob Nielsen (love him or hate him) has a section on his site about writing for the web. He specifically mentions Producing Online News, which appears to have just come out.
posted by epersonae at 2:29 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Check out Yahoo's style guide.
posted by veggieboy at 5:31 PM on November 2, 2010

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