How To Write For The Internet And Survive

How To Write For The Internet And Survive

how to write for the internet

I started blogging many years ago and have since written millions of words. (Well, maybe...I am not that good at counting.) I have around 800 posts on this blog alone and countless others in a variety of places. I have had the privilege of being published in several magazines, and even had a few articles in a small birth story book last year. I write regularly for Mothering Magazine online and I handle the content for Birth Boot Camp.

I can actually say at this point that I get paid to write. I didn't think that would ever happen.

I see so many people say that they want to write but are afraid. Some are afraid to do even a few posts for their business website. I wanted to share a few thoughts on this subject because... well, you need not be afraid.

First, let's discuss the all the things that are wrong with me and my writing.

  • Full disclosure, I am not a "real" writer. I have no degree in writing or English. 
  • I am a notoriously bad speller. 
  • Grammar...I didn't learn to diagram a sentence until high school and I didn't really get it.
  • Proof reading? That's for sissies.
  • Nobody has ever accused me of being a perfectionist.

Never fear. I am well aware of my faults. And yet, people give money to write for them. Are they nuts? Possibly.

Here are my tips for writing for the internet and surviving.

1) Don't Worry So Much About What Other People Say-

One of the main things that I find people are scared of is criticism. I have been criticized many times. Actually, thousands of times. (And I am not exaggerating.) I even wrote a blog post filled with my favorite negative comments on my blog.  I have seen hundreds of other negative comments on Facebook and various other places.

I can't say that I care too much what they think. 


Of course, I am not a sociopath so I care to some degree. But I don't care enough to let it stop me from doing something I love. 

Here is how I look at negative comments:

First- Are they right? 
Negative comments give us reason to re-evaluate and re-think our position. Sometimes, upon reflection, I find that I was wrong and they were right. Sometimes there are things I didn't know or just overlooked in my passion. This isn't fun, but it is a growing experience.

Second- Did they misunderstand me?
Sometimes negativity comes when I didn't express myself well. Then, a reader felt I was saying something that I didn't intend to say or didn't mean. This helps me chean up and clarify my writing so I can be more effective. What first seems like negativity can actually help make me do better.

Third- Do they matter?
Some critics are just mean, unhappy, or processing their own negative experience. Whatever it is, I hope it helps. But I don't know if it really matters what they think if their reaction is not so much to me, but to the content. There will sometimes be voracious negativity when you are dealing with birth and parenting subjects.

Do I really care what they think? Probably not.

Fourth- Don't read them-
Nothing says you have to read the awful things people say about you. If I am not in the mood for self loathing, I just skip it. I don't need the approval of a stranger to feel good about myself and neither do you.

2) Take Advice-

Now there are people whose opinions matter, even if it sometimes hurts to hear it.

I have had lots of smart people give me good advice on writing for the internet. It is actually very different than writing in college and it must be learned. 

Some of the most advice I have been given for writing for the internet-

-Short Sentences- 
People reading online do not read how they read when they cuddle up with a real, paperback book by the fireplace. They read in the grocery line or at school pick up. They want things quick, readable and easy to scan.

Keep your sentences short. Break things up. Use your headings. 

-Know Your Audience-
This pertains to the above, but it matters in more than just formatting. Depending on where you are writing, adapt your style to your audience. If you are writing for potential clients, keep it professional. If you are writing purely for clicks and shares, then consider what it is that people like. For example, naked pictures are great click bait, but they don't work great for promoting a professional business (unless...well, you get the picture.)

I write very differently depending on who I am writing for, Here, I am often conversational, but when I write for Birth Boot Camp childbirth education, I try to keep things a little less emotional and professional. 

3) Get Edited

As you know, grammar and spelling aren't my strong suits. I am busy and constantly overwhelmed with work and home. I often do things fast and dirty, just so I can get them done.

So don't be afraid to ask for editing. It is much easier to see someone else's mistakes than it is to see your own. I can read something I wrote over and over and not see my mistakes, but spot them immediately in someone else.

My dear dad is my frequent editor. I also share the things I write with my fellow natural birth instructors and doulas over at Birth Boot Camp. We share all of our posts with each other and not only does it help reach more people, but they give great feedback. So share the things you write with others and get feedback!

If I am writing about something that is admittedly not my expertise, then I reach out to an expert. Their comments and quotes add more than I ever could with my limited knowledge. 

Don't be afraid to bring in other people, get edited, get expert advice, and learn.

I guess my "advice" is full of contradictions. My point is to be confident, go forward, and do something rather than nothing. I have written tons of stuff that is total junk. It is a little embarrassing. But it was also worth it.

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY


K.V. in KC said…
Sarah, I just read "Misery of Motherhood", then "50 Things to Love", realizing after the fact that they were both written by you. That compelled me to come over here to your blog, and this posting caught my eye - I've been playing with the idea of a blog for awhile, but haven't made the jump. You are such a good writer (after lots of practice, I know), that you've inspired me. Thank you! I'll be following you; keep it coming.