Publishing an article for all the world to see takes just a matter of minutes these days. With a computer, or even a smart phone, and internet access anyone can put their words out there for everyone to read. But just because the process is quick does not mean it should not be taken seriously and carried out thoroughly.
Many people lament the declining use of proper grammar on the internet. The web has altered how we use our written language and not everyone is happy about it. But whether you use emoticons to express emotion and abbreviate every other phrase to its simplest acronym you should still make several checks of your work before hitting the publish button.
Word processors and blog platforms have a built-in spellchecker so there should be no excuse for misspellings of simple words. Of course, they do not pick up all grammar errors because of the way sentences in English can be constructed, but they should do away with basic typos.
Names, dates and figures should be checked at least twice before publishing – there is a huge difference between Dr Jones and Professor Jones or 1.2% and 12%.
Many grammar problems – their instead of there, its instead of it’s – will be picked up by the spellchecker. But take the time to read through your article again and pay close attention to your grammar.
Take a step back from your article and consider whether it is easy to read. The words may have flowed off your fingertips as you typed but they might not be quite the right ones when you read it back. Read it out loud so that you avoid the temptation to skim through it, reading what you think you have written rather than what you have actually written.
Checking for readability means ensuring that the article is easy to understand, has a clear meaning and does not confuse, mislead or otherwise make it difficult for the reader to follow your point.
Try to set out each article with a clear beginning, middle and end. Introduce your topic, get your point across, then provide a closing summary. Asking a question at the end will invite comment and debate from readers.
We’ve all received an email and wondered why the sender is being a little “off” with us, only to realise that perhaps they were trying to be sarcastic. Emotion can be difficult to express over the internet, so try to be clear when you make a joke, take the mickey, say something sarcastically and so on.
Your overall tone will be set by your personal writing style and topic. An article on the latest House of Commons debate will be much more serious and strait-laced than a piece on last night’s episode of The X Factor. Of course, you can express your opinion and use words you are comfortable with in each, but you will likely find that articles on current affairs come out a little “drier” than those on the latest pop sensation.