Writing Spaces Web Writing Style Guide
Matt Barton, St. Cloud State University
Copyright Year: 2011
Publisher: Grand Valley State University
Conditions of Use
The introduction of the book notes that it isn't focused on writing in general but rather writing on social media sites. I thought that overall, the book did a great job covering the different aspects of web writing, including rhetorical... read more
The introduction of the book notes that it isn't focused on writing in general but rather writing on social media sites. I thought that overall, the book did a great job covering the different aspects of web writing, including rhetorical considerations, issues of accessibility, copyright, and coding. There was a lot of practical how-to information as well as links to other more in-depth resources. I did think that a bit more might have been said about the rhetorical considerations of audience, genre conventions, etc. I also found that several of the resource links were broken or out of date.
I believe most of the content in the book about social media and web genres was accurate, but because the book was written in 2009, there are some things that have changed that make some of the content inaccurate. For instance, the authors claim that Internet Explorer is the most popular Web browser. There are also different social media platforms that are now available that weren't mentioned.
The general concepts about rhetoric and the principles of how to use and think about online technologies when designing/publishing texts is still relevant. Again, many of the links don't work, and I think some of the more specific "how to" guides are out of date since technology has advanced so much since the book was published. For instance, the book mentions how helpful Google Reader is, but that particular program has been discontinued. The TextWrangler program that the authors recommend for Macs is no longer supported by newer Macs. These are just a couple examples of how the book is somewhat out of date.
The authors mention that the book is tailored toward college students and that they intentionally left out more technical jargon. Although the text was sometimes too informal for my taste, I thought the information was easy to understand and that the authors did a nice job of providing clear explanations, making numbered or bulleted lists that were easy to follow, and putting keywords in bold that were then defined.
Overall, the book seemed consistent in the purpose of introducing readers to the concept of web writing and all of the rhetorical and technical considerations.
Each chapter is easy to read and focused on a specific aspect of web writing, which makes it easier to assign a single chapter or even a short section from a chapter. On the other hand, there are references to other parts of the book, which makes some of the sections less independent of one another.
The book is organized in a way that makes sense and is easy to follow. It begins with a more general section "Writing in the Genres of the Web" that makes distinctions between web writing and other types of writing. It discusses what the different web genres and conventions are before moving into the second section about "The Rhetoric of Web Pages" and what the rhetorical and technical issues are for designing and publishing web pages. Concepts are scaffolded effectively with a firm foundation in the concept of rhetoric.
The interface is clean with plenty of white space and text that is readable. The images are clear and easy to follow. There are hyperlinks that often provide helpful information from other sources, though many no longer link to relevant information due to broken links or outdated pages. It was helpful that the contents page in the beginning provides direct links to corresponding sections of the book. This made navigation quicker and easier.
Overall, the writing is free from errors, though I noticed a couple of minor issues related to grammar, formatting, and the convention of calling authors by their last name instead of their first. These weren't errors that made the text difficult to understand or follow, but they were a bit distracting in the few areas when I noticed them.
Nothing came across as culturally offensive, though many of the external sources that are referenced are written by white men. The voices within the text don't seem to be very diverse. On the other hand, there is a short discussion about being culturally sensitive when it comes to rhetorical choices in a text and the values that are being communicated. The book also talks about accessibility issues for people with some sort of hearing or visual impairment, which is an important consideration related to inclusion.
I will teach a Writing for the Media class in the fall, and I could definitely see myself drawing from different portions of this textbook, especially the sections that discuss rhetorical considerations and genre conventions. It couldn't be a stand-alone textbook for a course, especially since so much of the practical how-to information and resource links are out-dated, but different sections of the book could be brought in as reading assignments or discussion/class activities. I would have really appreciated a few classroom activities or perhaps assignment ideas, which would have made the textbook even more practical as a teaching tool.
The guide is fairly comprehensive, except that it is missing more updated tactics. read more
The guide is fairly comprehensive, except that it is missing more updated tactics.
It is accurate, but some information is outdated.
In the introduction, some evidence that it was written in 2011 and is somewhat outdated includes:
"Clicking a link is a lot easier than driving down to the library to find the book or article in question. "
Younger readers may find the following kind of information obvious, but it may serve older/nontraditional college students.
"Writing for the web also has built-in community features—it’s a lot faster and easier to get feedback from your readers and have discussions about your texts when you put them online."
"In addition, the web is no longer accessed only on desktop computers and laptops. Visitors to your site may be using a mobile phone’s smaller screen, which means they will have different needs than readers using a full-size monitor. Conversely, Internet TVs are becoming more common, and before long, many people will use iPads or An-droid tablets as their primary device for reading the web."
Yet, this information holds true:
With such variety in screen sizes and resolution, the challenge becomes making sure your content looks good across multiple web browsers, platforms, and devices. Since you can’t be sure how people will access your stuff, keep the design elements simple so that browsers can accommodate it.
An example of outdated information that needs updating is that Twitter initially had a limit of 140 characters per tweet but now the limit is 280 characters. Another example, includes a couple of broken links, one referring to the defunct Google Reader.
Much of the information still is useful, such as:
" If you want to make your blog standout, take strong positions on a particular subject or theme and write in a colorful, fun way."
"A good rule of thumb for dealing with strangers online is to be ten times more polite and friendly than you normally are."
The text is extremely easy to read and provides definitions and links to further define technical terms.
The guide offers a useful framework and terminology which is easy to follow.
Just as the guide dictates, it uses clear subheads and examples with illustrations. This guide does a commendable job of achieving an easy-to-read format.
The guide does an excellent job of taking the reader from simple concepts and progressing to ones that are more complex in a clear, logical way.
The only issues here are a few broken links or redirects due to outdated information.
The grammar is clean, which makes it easy to read.
It is not offensive, and includes at least one inclusive, sensitive reference: "Now that you are writing for the web, you might also be expecting a global audience. Did you know that colors symbolize different meaning in other cultures? Check out Color Meanings by Culture at The International Business Edge. For instance in Japanese culture, red symbolizes life."
So much of this information changes rapidly in the digital world. Core concepts about attracting readers, ethics and legal standards do not change, however, and so this guide is still useful — some sections more than others.
This textbook does a good job of covering the basics of web writing (style) and includes a clear and effective Contents page to show the reader what the book includes. The textbook would benefit from additional content and read a bit thin at about... read more
This textbook does a good job of covering the basics of web writing (style) and includes a clear and effective Contents page to show the reader what the book includes. The textbook would benefit from additional content and read a bit thin at about 75 pages. Also, giving more examples of successful online posts would benefit students. The Resources page would be useful to a student. Some excellent links included throughout the text.
The content of this book is unbiased, accurate, error-free. The evolving nature of the internet makes this textbook one that would need consistent updates and editions.
Given how quickly the internet evolves, this textbook will need to be consistently updated. However, I found a lot of useful information here, including the difference between sans fonts and non-sans fonts. While reading, I kept trying to understand the intended audience and their needs. For example, the subcategories: "what is a blog?" and "what about Twitter?" -- the relevance of this content is contingent on audience -- would most students already have a grip on this material?
The authors of this textbook did a marvelous job of writing clear and efficient prose. The book reads very well. They took a seemingly dry subject and infused their language with humor and pizazz(I really enjoyed the Matrix references and conversational writing voice). They also did a good job of explaining why the concepts they were covering were useful to the reader. So not only did they provide quality content, but they did a good of explaining why that content was important. Any reader will be able to connect to the voices of these writers. They understood that the employed jargon might be lifeless on the page and they worked hard to combat that.
The book starts out strong but by the end -- it fizzles out. There was no conclusion to this textbook. No wrap-up. The textbook just ends on coding and creating a web page. To be honest, I didn't understand if this ending was a choice by the contributors or if they ran out of content? Is this text a work in progress? They do list some resources at the end. Very confusing ending given how careful they were to lead the reader through the majority of their ideas.
The contributors to this text did a good job of breaking the textbook into manageable sections (two main ones) -- this would make assigning reading for this textbook fairly easy for an instructor. However, chapter titles would add a lot regarding organization and general cohesiveness. Each mini-section bleeds to the next and as an instructor, it would be easier to be able to tell students: "Read chapter five..." for example-
I found this textbook to be very reader-friendly. However, having chapter titles would add organization. More of a conclusion would also add a lot. The textbook is divided into two main sections.
This textbook is free of any interface issues.
I didn't notice any issues with grammar. The writing voice, though there were many contributors, reads as clear and cohesive. The textbook editors did a good job, overall.
This textbook isn't insensitive or offensive in any way. The examples used and the content of the textbook work to give readers more reach through reflective and thoughtful presentation. I liked that the book spoke to various socioeconomic readers. Writers did a good job of blending conversational voice with elevated, more professional, voice to speak and connect to different readers.
The intention behind this textbook is smart -- any instructor teaching a class about ways the student writer approaches web communication would benefit from this text.
Writing Spaces offers a student accessible overview of writing in digital writing environments. More specifically, this textbook provides fun and easy to read introductions to concepts (e.g, fair use; accessibility; hyperlinks), genres (e.g.,... read more
Writing Spaces offers a student accessible overview of writing in digital writing environments. More specifically, this textbook provides fun and easy to read introductions to concepts (e.g, fair use; accessibility; hyperlinks), genres (e.g., blogs; wikis; RSS; tweets), and communities (e.g., Reddit; Digg; Facebook) which inform writing in digital environments. I, especially, enjoyed the sections that covered how rhetorical choices surrounding hyperlinking, web-formatting, CRAP design principles (contrast; repetition; alignment; proximity) impact user experiences, and found the focus on both design (writing) and interactivity (reading) was well balanced. I found the discussions of how to work with the Intellectual Property of other writer/designers particularly valuable because the text contextualized source-use as an ethical-legal practice which requires agentive knowledge of how copyright, fair-use doctrine, and plagiarism impact digital writing/designing. The text concludes with a brief HTML-CSS tutorial that provides a super-friendly introduction to authoring using code--a first experience that would certainly bolster student and/or instructor confidence with HTML & CSS.
The textbook content is timely and accurate. Students will not only benefit from the insights the editors have incorporated about how writer/design choices regarding typography, search engine optimization, accessibility, and file formatting potentially add or detract value from a webtext, but also the helpful and current resources that the editors have linked to regarding, for instance, Creative Commons, HTML5, and Google Web Fonts.
Currently, the textbook is very strong in this category as it is up to date. To the degree that the textbook might be understood as a general introduction to the ways design choices impact writing in digital environments, it is likely that the book will remain relevant for a good period of time. Still, as with any textbook that deals with digital writing and communication technologies, it is likely that examples could be outdated as interfaces and practices evolve over time. The text and/or image based examples are thoughtfully selected, and the textbook is organized conceptually so it's unlikely that practices such as SEO or accessibility or hyperlinking will change generally, but it is possible that some aspects of these practices and/or the textual/image examples used to illuminate practices could become outdated. The greatest concern I have is that the valuable links to 3rd party content (e.g., WAVE, MOZ's SEO Beginner's Guide, Creative Commons) could break if/as URLs change.
This is, perhaps, one of the strongest assets of this textbook. It is super accessible and friendly to beginners and/or everyday users of the web. The voice is funny, quirky, and respectful of students. The editors/authors have even worked in pop culture references to #lolcats and politely poked fun at the uncoolness of animated GIFs.
The textbook is well organized. It begins with overviews of genres commonly found in digital environments, before turning toward the work of discussing how more specific design choices impact the rhetorical effectiveness of digital writing. Discussions of genres, communities, and practices embrace a rhetorical framework which points toward how writerly/designerly choices impact how audiences might interact with a piece of writing found in digital environments. The framework and terminology the editors have selected is consistent with the way digital rhetorics are discussed and understood in field based journals, but the concepts are discussed in ways that not overly jargony. Put simply, the editors emphasize a rhetorical approach towards discussing genres, communities, and practices found in digital writing environments, but do so in a way that would not be academically or technically disorienting toward new learner.
It seems as though modularity was central to the design of this textbook. While the textbook coherences in a linear reading, it just as readily lends itself toward being unpackaged and assigned in non-sequential ways. For example, it would make just as much sense for an instructor to exclusively assign the section that specifically deals with digital writing genres and communities, as it would to exclusively assign only the pages that deal with Twitter or the HTML-CSS tutorial.
The organization is thoughtful. As previously discussed, the book begins with an introduction to genres and communities before turning toward a more detailed overview of how specific design choices impact the rhetorical efficacy of web-based writing.
The book embraces the design the principles that it discusses. I found the interface readible, accessible, and easy to navigate.
This is a well written textbook: I found no errors of the grammar.
It seems unfair to poorly rate this textbook based in this category, as it's clear that the aim of this textbook is to serve as an introduction to writing in digital environments. Indeed, this is a "style guide" that introduces writer/designers toward the rhetorical impacts that their design choices might have for audiences. It may be possible that other textbooks in the "Writing Spaces" series offer greater coverage of the cultural dimensions associated with (digital) writing (e.g., E-Waste; digital divide; privacy and surveillance in digital space) so instructors looking for such content should be look toward *Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing Vol. I* or *Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing Vol. II* to see if these do, in fact, have coverage of such topics.
Textbooks like this are increasingly valuable for students because of the sharply rising costs of education. I cannot offer strong enough support for the work that the editors and contributors of this textbook undertaken through developing such a valuable learning asset. I'll be incorporating this text within my own digital writing and rhetorics courses, and I look forward to reading the other offerings in the *Writing Spaces* series. I also hope that I may contribute to this important work in the future.
A useful guide for Writing on the Web. It provides many tips for authors of websites, blogs and other materials on the Web. It is a fast-paced, easy-to-read and practical guide. While some of it is common sense, it is always good to have reminders... read more
A useful guide for Writing on the Web. It provides many tips for authors of websites, blogs and other materials on the Web. It is a fast-paced, easy-to-read and practical guide. While some of it is common sense, it is always good to have reminders on the proper way to do things on the Web. Some additional information from the research on how readers view things on websites -- eye-tracking studies, for example -- would be useful as that impacts how pages are best designed for impact and readability. And it could draw more from the literature in areas like design (for example, serif vs. sans serif fonts), rather than a reliance on opinion. More emphasis needs to be placed on matters such as accuracy, ethics, and libel. If your material is published on the Web, those concerns do matter. And that includes the material from contributors to websites, wikis or blogs. A future update could use contributions from journalists and journalism professors, who could speak on the critical importance of those issues. The book has a clear table of contents. It might provide more specific and practical style tips, such as whether it's email or e-mail, Internet or internet, etc. A quick usage guide to terms on the Internet would be a useful addition. Also, the extensive section on coding seems a bit out of place in a "writing style guide" and might be part of a separate technical book on planning, designing and building websites. Overall, this book will be useful and relevant for a wide variety of readers in different fields.
Accurate, although it could go into a few more details in certain areas. A few typos but generally well edited. More reliance on research would help make it even stronger. Also, the book could stress the importance of making sure your online work is accurate. That includes monitoring what people post on your site. Plus, saying the worst thing that can happen if you borrow/use images from other sites without permission is that you'll get a letter to stop using them is not accurate. Some media firms have sued bloggers for thousands of dollars for using copyrighted materials. While this guide does stress the importance of following copyright law, it could be emphasized even more.
The Web is clearly under constant change. But this book provides general tips that should continue to be generally applicable, and, as things change, it could be updated quickly. One area that could be much more prominent is mobile technology and mobile apps. People are rapidly moving from getting their information from desktop and laptop computers to getting almost everything from their phones and tablets. Any future updates to this guide should have an extensive section on mobile use and how to best write for those users.
This is a fun, enjoyable read. This guide flows smoothly. Some parts do need more explanation and/or examples. For example, it could explain how having comments on blogs builds ethos.
Terms are generally explained well.
The organizational structure is sound. It can be read in easily digestible nuggets.
The content flows smoothly and logically. One section leads to the next. My only recommendation would be to leave out the section on coding (not really appropriate for a Web writing style guide) and perhaps have it be part of a different book on building websites.
No issues noticed.
A few minor grammatical issues. For example, a website is an it, not a they.
No big problems noticed, but many examples are of writing teachers' online work and academic departments' websites. Future updates could include a wider variety of interesting and diverse examples. Also, the section on blogging should include more discussion of monitoring the blogs for insensitive rants and inaccurate statements. It's good to encourage feedback and comments, but some restraints are needed for legal and ethical reasons.
I enjoyed this online textbook. Overall, if you want a good introduction for students on anything from hyperlinks to plagiarism, this is a good, easy-to-read guide for them.
While much of the material is common knowledge for anyone who works with websites, the guide provides useful information and good reminders. The guide is a nice primer for those who are new to the field. It has a good mix of contributors -- mainly college writing teachers. But it would benefit from other perspectives, particularly in journalism. And it needs more emphasis on the need for accuracy when you write anything that's clearly not fiction for the Web Not only is a Web writer's credibility at stake, but inaccuracies also could lead to legal ramifications.
I downloaded this text, and was surprised it was focused upon Web writing in all genres. I was at first disappointed since I teach WR 90, and looking for a more comprehensive text on writing, but after reviewing it, I was a believer. My students... read more
I downloaded this text, and was surprised it was focused upon Web writing in all genres. I was at first disappointed since I teach WR 90, and looking for a more comprehensive text on writing, but after reviewing it, I was a believer. My students are culturally diverse, and often high poverty, so computer literacy is a high need. They can use computers, but the comprehensiveness of reviewing all aspects of web writing is a high need. I learned a lot - the kind of questions you figure a 30 something answers daily, but quite complex to me. I had heard of most of the genres, but understanding their use, and how I might use that in my class - incredibly worthwhile. Understanding the genre's purpose, and also how to improve writing in it, brilliant!
I thought it was well established information, and though the many aspects of web writing are not necessarily my expertise area, I did not see bias; I saw the goals, and strategies from an educator's point of view. That was extremely satisfying to me. I plan to use it, so that says a great deal.
This area of using the web is a work in progress. It will be updated for sure, as every day there is a new communication tool to share information, thus, I feel its accuracy is excellent, but if you worked at Apple, maybe not! I thought it was very inclusive and up to date.
The writing was accessible and fun. The authors know how to work with students, that is clear. I felt it was articulately expressed, but had a casualness of language and thought that made it easy to understand. I kept seeing how students would appreciate the information and delivery, some more than others. Many students understand the genres much better than others, but the appropriateness of writing within the genres, everyone can benefit from..
I am not an expert in this area of the internet, though I am surrounded with family who are experts (a librarian/archivist at Oregon State University and a 31 year old Communications' Specialist for the Attorney General of Oregon) who have shared information with me, as I was lost in this new world of social media. I thought the language was not only accessible but definitely consistent in tone and information.
This is a strength area of this online style guide. There were headings that were short and digestible about various areas, including blogs, Reddit, Wiki, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. I felt anyone of them could be given separately - they were not dependent upon information from one to understand another. I could give this separately in writing and reading without any problem. They do and don't build upon each segment or genre.
The logical order and flow were excellent. I found myself asking questions about the next area, and from my view, the organization was excellent. It flowed to the next genre, but it wasn't dependent upon the previous one. The writing is very easy to understand, so that made it easy to make sense of. The information is relevant, most of us have heard of the various genres somewhere, and that made it easier to understand. I had schema to build on the goal of the genre, but I will say as the areas got more complex and current, I found it less accessible because I had not heard of the genre (that could be my issue)!
I thought the interface was excellent except for one picture that was difficult to discern. I am surprised when I see a picture in a book, or an email for it does not translate well. The picture was distorted and I could not understand it, so that is a negative, but that was only one. Beyond that, it was easy to understand. I wonder if more examples in pictures or examples might help, but since I downloaded it, I may have missed some of that.
I am a grammar editor who can see a mistake a mile away. I did not detect any grammatical errors in the writing, and felt it was well-edited by others. The list of contributors who are English teachers is long, so it felt very well articulated in all ways. I loved the language that would meet students - casual but thoughtful and accurate.
This is an interesting area with this information. It did not try to be culturally relevant, but it was not at all insensitive. The structure was given, the ideas for best practices were within reason, but it did not lend itself to culture; however, that being said, it was not offensive or thoughtless. I might say this was pretty non-ethnocentric, and maybe it was the material that was so straightforward informationally, so not sure if I am missing something that I should have been more focused upon!
A strong focus on writing and different online genres was brilliant to me. This is done so poorly in a print book, absent from a computer, but this is accessed online and that made it so much more relevant and easy to practice or review. One could pull up the genre and practice it, or possibly it was already used by the student, and the ideas were focused for writing excellence in all genres. I learned a lot of information I have had so many questions about, so it may be more helpful for someone not a millennial, but I am sure my students who have less access to computers, and futurist educational best practices would be well served. I plan to use this, and that is the best endorsement I can give this book.
Table of Contents
- Writing in the Genres of the Web
- The Rhetorics of Web Pages
About the Book
The Writing Spaces Web Writing Style Guide was created as a crowdsourcing project of Collaborvention 2011: A Computers and Writing Unconference. College writing teachers from around the web joined together to create this guide (see our Contributors list). The advice within it is based on contemporary theories and best practices.
While the text was originally written for students in undergraduate writing classes, it can also be a suitable resource for other writers interested in learning more about writing for the web.
This document is available as a web text for reading online, a printer-friendly PDF, and an EPUB ereader versions.
About the Contributors
Matt Barton is a professor of English at St. Cloud State University.
James Kalmbach professor emeritus, Department of English, Illinois State University.
Charlie Lowe is an assistant professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University where he teaches first year composition, professional writing, and web design. He is a strong advocate of open source software adoption and open access publishing.