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Writing For Print: Reader Expectations

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on March 7, 2012 in Magazine Writing
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I was thinking about what to tell you this month, and really wanted to highlight what it is that I enjoy so much about writing for magazines and print publications. It is definitely a different experience to craft a piece for this medium as opposed to writing one for the web, but it was a challenge for me to explain exactly what I like better about authoring an article for a magazine...

After some reflection I realized what it was.

When I write for the web, much of my focus is on clarity and readability. I try to keep sentences and paragraphs on the shorter side, and I feel pressured to get my point across quickly. I don't really think people read on the web--and studies actually bear that out. Instead of kicking back to get involved with an article on the web, most people scan it quickly and then move on to the next thing. If they finish it at all.

I must admit, that is how I read on the web. Generally I'm looking for information, and even if I come across something that is more of an "enjoyable" read, I give it a quick once-over and then go on to another page. Don't get me wrong--I love the web--but it just isn't where I read for pleasure. Even devices such as the Kindle and the Nook point to the fact that people aren't excited about spending a lot of time lugging their computer around to read.

Not so with print. I'll again use myself as an example. When I pick up a magazine, it is usually when I have some free time to devote to reading. I sit back, leisurely flip through the pages and search for an article I want to read. When I find something, I read it thoroughly; immersing myself in the experience of the writer, or in the information they convey. If interrupted, I'll fold the page over so I can return later and finish it. I rarely bookmark a page on the web to come back  and read the article.

There is also something to be said for the layout. Even though photos are used on the web, there is just something about the way a print publication can position them to highlight the content that I enjoy more.


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So when it comes down to it, I believe that print publications allow the writer a better opportunity to truly communicate with the reader. I think they are more likely to spend the time on your piece--really "listening" to what you have to say, rather than skimming it. And I personally enjoy writing with that level of detail. This is why I still do it.

I write for many different clients--and a lot of them are on the web. But some of my most cherished assignments are lifestyle pieces for print publications. Please do ask me to write about the arts scene in my hometown or author an article about a trip I recently took. I'll spend hours and hours thinking about it and then enjoy every moment of creating the piece. I always feel like I'm speaking directly to the reader when I write for print.

When I write for the web, I generally strive to be direct, helpful and informative (naturally, depending on what the piece calls for). I want to convey information to the reader and provide them with good links to solid resources. I tend to feel a bit more pressured when writing this way--and formatting is always hovering in the background as well. Keep it short. Keep it clean. I understand it, and even agree with it, but I just don't like writing that way as much.

That's why no matter how great the jobs are, or how much the pay is, given the choice I'll write for a magazine every time. I love the web, but when it comes right down to it, I'd rather sit back with a cup of coffee and read a long, in-depth article about someone's trip to Hong Kong in a travel magazine--and all the pictures that go with it.

And if I decide to book myself a trip to see the sights there--I'll scout out the hotels and get the tickets online!

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Catherine L. Tully has over nine years of experience writing for magazines such as American Style, AAA Living and Boys' Life. She is the editor for an award-winning blog on freelance writing and also owns and edits a blog for dance professionals.

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1 Comment

  1. This post spoke to me so clearly this morning – as if directly to my heart.
    I too feel pressured to be clear, concise and correct when wrting for the web. I skim when I read online.
    But there is magic in paper and ink that somehow weaves a spell that stretches time…and adds enjoyment into the equation (vs just information). My book collection (aka library) stands testimony to that…and dwarfs my Kindle!

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