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Quality Journalism in the Digital Age

Tips to ensure effective and clear online writing

Whether editing your own online writing or articles prepared by others, it’s a good idea to make sure you haven’t overlooked any details before you publish.

Here’s a practical checklist of questions to ensure you’ve covered all the bases when it comes to solid journalistic style and user-friendly online presentation. 

Writer’s checklist

The title

☐ Can it stand on its own without any context?

☐ Will it display correctly in all formats (e.g. handheld devices, feed readers)?

☐ Does it contain keywords?

☐ Is it newsworthy (for news items)?

☐ Does it generate interest?

☐ Does it avoid empty, filler words and phrases?

The teaser

☐ Does it inform readers what the text is about?

☐ Does it stimulate interest in the topic?

☐ Does it enhance information from the heading yet avoid repetition?

☐ Does it avoid nondescript adjectives (e.g. massive, critical)?

☐ Is it clear instead of cryptic?

☐ Does it raise a question, propose a hypothesis, present a conflict or contradict a cliché?

☐ Does it avoid use of superlatives?

The body

☐ Is the text well-structured, are their subheadings? (Ideally there should be one train of thought per paragraph.)

☐ Is the sequence of information logical, do the scenes progress the story?

☐ Is/are there one or several recurring theme/s throughout the text (they can for instance be chronological or spatial)?

☐ Does the format suit the content (feature report, commentary, Q&A, interview, etc.)?

☐ Does it speak to your audience and appropriately address their level of knowledge about the subject matter?

☐ Does the article have a clear argumentative goal? (What should my reader understand after having gone through my text?)

☐ Does it have a clear emotional goal? How should the reader feel after having read through my text?)

☐ Does the article present new facts (relevant for news writers)?

☐ Does it present relevant protagonists?

☐ Does it mention relevant locations?

☐ Does it avoid references to time that are relative (today, yesterday, tomorrow)?

☐ Is there sufficient quality of sources and experts?

☐ Does it include links that provide additional information and context (e.g. original reports, interesting sources, etc.)?

☐ Have you used suitable elements to portray the story?

☐ Is the writing style dynamic or too static? Does it make more use of active verbs than passive ones?

☐ Are there parts written too generally or too specifically (i.e. common knowledge described in too much detail)?

☐ Scan through your text again. Are there any excess words that can be omitted?

☐ Have you checked the sentence structure? (Too many passive constructions, does it name names, too much use of “it” or “things”?)

☐ Have you checked for spelling and grammatical errors?

☐ If the text includes quotes, have they been well-chosen? Do they progress the story or serve merely as filler?

By Steffen Leidel


Tuesday 2012-01-03



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