From here to eternity: training web content writers

worldcalstanleylondoncom.jpg The training of web content writers is not a flash in the pan. It's still going to be needed in 50 years time. That's my reckless prediction. Here's why I'm sticking my neck out.

Around 1996 I began training knowledge workers to write for the web, and in 1999 I wrote the first edition of Web Word Wizardry.

The Write Group still offers my face-to-face courses under licence in various countries. (Of course they're regularly updated.) And demand for CONTENTED tutorless online courses is steadily growing.

What we teach has changed, but in emphasis rather than substance. My initial audience was small business people who wanted instant wealth from an exciting "dot com business". (Remember?) Search engine optimisation and profit were their main aims.

Quite soon, knowledge workers from government, not-for-profit and private sector organisations joined the small business owners in my classes.

The essentials of good web content writing remain steady. To quote from Web Word Wizardry (1999 edition):

This is your bill of writes
Write to be found.
Write to be scanned.
Write to be understood.
Write to be trusted.
Write to get results.

Those are still the goals of our training -- we have just found simpler, speedier ways to teach people how to achieve them.

Nine years is not eternity. It's actually the history of plain language that leads me to predict an ongoing need to train web content authors. Plain language training has been around in much the same form since the 1950s.

After 50 years, the same basic facts still need to be imparted to legions of professionals. Facts such as short sentences are easier to read, write and understand. Nobody owns these sorts of facts: and all business writing trainers teach the same facts. And yet when knowledge workers first encounter plain language training, it's usually a great surprise.

Most business writing is now published, archived, shared and despatched online. This demands a few extra key communication skills that are never taught in the schoolroom. Professional development training is forever, and that includes the area of writing web content.

But I don't personally intend to train people for another 50 years.

Image: 50-year calendar from StanleyLondon.com


Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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