The Internet has revolutionised every aspect of our lives. We now do things differently from how we’d have done them in the pre-Internet days. Anyone who can’t integrate the Internet into their life will definitely be left behind in the competitive Information Age.
Before now, writing was mostly done offline: in black and white. And people read hardcopy materials. But now, writing has gone online: on blogs and the social media. And people now read softcopy materials.
These changes in the reading-writing culture must be reflected in present-day communication, especially online writing.
In college grammar classes, your English language teacher must have taught you some rules of writing. While we aren’t saying your teacher misled you, we want to tell you the rules are better suited for offline writing, not online writing. In fact, some of the rules no longer hold.
As an online writer writing for online readers, you must break some traditional rules of writing. Below are five of the rules.
RULE 1: Formal Language For Serious Writing.
Formal language is usually frozen in style and technical in diction. These make it somewhat less preferable for online writing.
Most online readers prefer simple word choice, sentence structure and stylistic embellishment. Probably, you don’t know what stylistic embellishment means. I only used that to illustrate what I’m saying about formal offline language.
The rule for online language is: Keep it short and simple.
RULE 2: One Idea, One Paragraph.
Traditionally, a paragraph is a group of sentences with one idea. The idea is captured in the topic sentence. The other sentences, called supporting sentences, add details to the idea.
There’s no stated length for a paragraph. The unwritten rule however is: about 9 lines of an A4 paper max.
In online writing, an idea may be spilt over many short paragraphs. This is done to enhance readability. Blocks of words without spaces are tedious to read on screens.
The rule for online writing is: One idea, more than one short paragraphs.
RULE 3: One Sentence Can’t Make A Paragraph.
At least two sentences are qualified to be called a paragraph in traditional offline writing. The topic sentence and at least one supporting sentence.
In online writing, one sentence can be a paragraph. If one sentence is rather long, it could be made a paragraph. Besides, an online writer may decide to make a sentence a paragraph regardless of length.
The online writing rule is: One sentence can make a paragraph.
RULE 4: Only Verbs Can Make One-Word Sentences.
The verb is the heart of the sentence. Hence, traditionally, it is the basic requirement for a sentence.
There are one-word sentences which are usually verbs. Generally, words from the other word classes are not used to form one-word sentences.
In online writing, any word from any word class can be used to form one-word sentences. Illustrations: Go. Taxi! Yes. In fact, a word can make a paragraph in online writing. You should know this fact too.
The rule for offline writing is: Any word from any word class can make one-word sentences.
RULE 5: Prepositions And Conjunctions Can’t Start Sentences.
And this is yet another rule that doesn’t hold in online writing. Because most people write online the way they speak offline, sentences start with prepositions and conjunctions.
The rule for online writing is: Any word from any word class can start sentences.
One thing should be clear: The goal of communication is understanding. For online writers to communicate effectively with online readers, some traditional offline rules of writing must be broken.
Over to you: What other rules do you think must be broken by an online writer? Drop your comment. And remember to share this post: help someone become a better online writer.
I’m Habeebullahi Basorun, linguist, educator, writer, editor and CEO of Bash Clinic.
With certificates in English and education, I have the expertise and experience to help you meet your language and educational needs.