Internet Writing – How Much White Space Should A Writer Leave?

Photo of pencils with light blue background, titled "Pencils with Blank Space," by D. Sharon Pruitt

Photo by D. S. Pruitt

Each morning after breakfast, my routine is basically the same. First, I read and answer my email messages. Second, I check my blogs to ensure that all scheduled posts have published during the night. Third, I visit several social-media websites looking for news, messages, and connection requests. And finally, I open my RSS reader to browse articles that have appeared since my visit the day before.

 
I subscribe to the RSS feeds of more than thirty blogs, and although the content is for the most part excellent, the writing quality leaves much to be desired. Some of the subpar writing is by authors with heavy workloads, and some of it comes from non-writers who have expertise in an area and are doing their best to explain it.

Part of the writing-quality problem, however, stems from fad. Word spreads around the Web that a writing technique is superior, and as the message proliferates, many of the recipients take the ball and run with it. Some of them, unfortunately, take it and run off the field and out of the stadium. This is true for many Internet articles with respect to white space.

White space is exactly what its name describes. In order to create writing that readers can absorb comfortably, good writers examine the overall readability of their articles. Readers can follow an author’s train of thought better if some rest areas are interspersed throughout the piece. Professional writers ponder everything that confronts their audiences, including content, images, font choice, print size, margin width, paragraph length, transitions, organization, headings, and of course, white space.

Some Internet writers have taken the white-space concept to its extreme and have decided to make every sentence its own paragraph. Such strained attempts to create readability actually achieve the opposite result. An article consisting of one-sentence paragraphs is difficult to read, largely because readers look for topic sentences that allow their thoughts to flow with those of the writer. Using single-sentence paragraphs signals that all of the sentences (paragraphs) carry equal weight, and the result is confusion rather than clarity. I click away from articles when I see that their authors have not organized them in ways that assist me.

Although other methods of crafting nonfiction pieces do exist, for most Internet writing, the beginning-middle-and-end concept is a solid approach. The beginning should contain what the author intends to say, the ending should sum up what the author has said, and the middle should include several points arranged in decreasing order of importance. Each point should have one or more paragraphs, and every paragraph should lead with a topic sentence that gives the reader an idea of its content followed by a few additional sentences that develop the point.

Including headings for each point is helpful, of course, but good writers don’t really need them. For Internet writers with search-engine-optimization goals in mind, however, using headings laced with well-researched keywords is a good idea.

Try not to overuse white space, and remember that you need not abandon everything you’ve learned about writing to succeed as a writer on the Internet. The adjustments you must make to your writing style in order to be an effective Internet writer are minor, and you should not throw away everything you know as you continue your journey as a writer in the twenty-first century. If you adhere to solid writing principles, you’ll win the loyalty of readers who appreciate the difficulty of producing well-crafted articles.

 

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