Online journalism: more than writing for the web

The Lady Godiva story has long been used as an example in journalism training – this was the case when Chris Wheal started the then Periodical Training Council (PTC) log-book training scheme in 1987.

log book

Periodical Training Council (PTC) log book from 1987, including Lady Godiva story example

This site updates the Lady Godiva story to show how journalists need to work differently online:

  • write sharper
  • include search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • write headlines, sub-headings and picture captions
  • include links
  • insert photos and video
  • use categories and tags
  • make sure your website complies with accessibility rules
  • promote your site/posts on social media

This site demonstrates:

Writing | List |SEO | Headings | Links | Embedding | Categories | Tags | Compliance | Social media | Curation

This is all on this page with internal navigation but you can also read each section as a separate page using the drop-down menu

Writing for the web

Journalists will be familiar with the six Ws and the inverted pyramid of news. The six Ws are Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Rudyard Kipling called these the six honest serving-men in a poem he wrote for his daughter.

Rudyard Kipling. text reads: I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.

Rudyard Kipling and his six honest serving-men

Full poem from the Kipling Society.

Some people are taught the five Ws but I was taught it was six because even though How ends with a W rather than starts with a W that was accurate enough for journalists. How is often How much, or How many.

Online these six Ws are also the keywords that people might be searching for. Make sure they are your search engine optimisation (SEO) words.

Inverted pyramid

The inverted pyramid is a method of writing the most important thing first and setting out your facts in order of importance.

At the end you give background, additional information and, in newsprint, perhaps a pointer to more detailed coverage on other pages. On the web, the pointer could be links to other pages on your site,  sections within the same page or external links to source material and additional information.

This inverted pyramid was vital in the old days because you could cut a story from the bottom. It is even more important online because most people want information quickly.

They prefer not to scroll or they need to be convinced to scroll. That means you need to convince them in the first few words and sentences that this is a web page in which they should invest time and effort.

Who and what

In general, the most important points involve Who and What. The story might be Who is doing What Where, or Who is doing What When, or it might be How is Who doing What, or Why is Who doing What.

A financial story might be Who is doing What for How much or How is Who doing What for How much. And there can often be lots of Whos or Hows or Whys.

You might have a story asking Who is doing What to Who(m) and Why, or How much is Who(m) charging Who(m) for What?

Scrap the first paragraph

In newsprint, a story is often written with scant detail in the first, short sentence, and then repeated with more detail in the second:

An 80-year-old lady driver killed a teenage boy in town yesterday when a wasp flew through the window of her car.

Hilda Smith, 80, killed teenager Timothy Jones, 16, in Acacia Drive, Lewisham, at 3pm Tuesday when a wasp flew through the window of her Hillman Imp.

Online, the first sentence is redundant. The second sentence contains the likely search terms and would be more likely to get clicked if it appeared in a Google search:

  • Hilda Smith
  • 80
  • teenager
  • Timothy Jones
  • 16
  • Acacia Drive
  • Lewisham
  • wasp
  • Hillman Imp

Power of three

In addition to the first sentence, I recommend concentrating on your three main points. Three is used in rhetoric, story telling and famous phrases and sayings (three of a kind; good things come in threes; faith, hope and charity). Three pieces of information is about all most people can take in in one go.

Before tablets and mobiles, which are the main way we look at the internet now, you would see on your computer screen the first three paragraphs of a web page without having to scroll. Even now, people decide very quickly whether or not to continue swiping their finger up their mobile’s screen.

So concentrate on the first three things to get as much as possible of the story across in as few words as you can.

Godiva story

So we start with the six Ws in the famous story of Lady Godiva. If we answer those six questions we get Lady Godiva rode naked through Coventry about 1035AD to cut taxes. That’s:

Lady Godiva (who) rode (what) naked (how) through Coventry (where) about 1035AD (when) to cut taxes (why)

But that does not tell us the whole story.

six Ws

Are these the only answers to the six Ws? (links to PDF)

What did she ride?

There are many more answers to the six Ws. Let’s start with: what did she ride? It wasn’t a bicycle or a motorbike or a scooter or a skateboard, it was a horse.

That is important for the story but also for search-engine optimisation because people are likely to type in the word horse when searching for this story. You can imagine a Google search for “naked horse ride” and we want our story to be found.

And thinking about search terms throws up another problem. Will people search for rode or ride? Does our key word need to be ride?

So we have ride and now horse under What.

When did she ride?

We also need to think about When. If she had ridden naked at 11 o’clock on a Sunday night it wouldn’t have been much of a story, given street lights were not invented and everyone would have been in bed since dusk.

It is important to the story that she rode naked at midday on market day – the busiest day of the week when the town would be crowded. So that’s another When.

Six Ws

A few more answers to the six Ws (links to PDF)

Why would a horse ride cut taxes?

Why did Godiva ride naked? Well, it was a dare from her husband, Leofric, who was the Earl of Mercia and the Lord of Coventry. That’s a What and a Who. He promised to stop collecting the tax if Godiva rode naked. That also means it would be more accurate to say “stop collecting the tax” rather than to cut tax.

Leofric was collecting the tax to fund King Canute’s bodyguard – there’s another Who and a Why (and Canute is sometimes spelt Cnut so we need both spellings, at least as extra SEO terms). Canute is famous for telling the tide to go back and failing to stop the waves (this was actually to prove he was not as powerful as his courtiers claimed) – that’s a What, if a bit irrelevant.

In fact, the tax had a name – it was the Heregeld, a specific type of Danegeld brought in by the Danish invaders. That’s another What.

Six Ws

Those six Ws keep on growing (links to PDF)

Why naked?

Leofric dared his wife to ride naked on the promise that he would cut taxes. The dare involved being naked because Greek and Roman art revered nudes and Lady Godiva was a patron and sponsor of the local arts. That’s another Why.

Leofric thought Godiva would never ride through Coventry, naked, at midday on market day, so she surprised him when she did, which is another What.

six Ws

Are there still more answers to the six Ws (links to PDF)

Look away

Her long hair is said to have covered much of her body (it’s a biblical reference: Corinthians) – which is a What.

Despite this, Godiva asked the people of Coventry not to look. So Coventry’s residents are another Who – and, because they suffered from the collection of the tax, stood to benefit from a tax cut and were asked to stay indoors, not looking is a What.

But one man, a tailor, later called Peeping Tom, did look. That’s two Whats and a Who. As a result, Peeping Tom was blinded by God, which is another What.

And this caused Leofric to convert to Christianity, which is a What again.

six Ws

Even more answers to the six Wx (links to PDF)

True or false?

So do we know if any of this story is true? Well the story first appeared in Roger of Wendover’s Flores Historiarum, published in 1235. It was popularised by his protégé Matthew Paris, in his Chronica Majora (1250). Paris changed the detail of the protest from the general relief of the poor to specify the cutting of tax – because he personally disliked taxation. So that’s some Whos,  Whats,  Whens and Whys.

The original story did not mention Lady Godiva asking people not to look. That was added to attract religious tourists in the 14th century, which is another Who and a When.

Peeping Tom was added in the 17th century by the Puritans, rewriting history to show that prior to the Reformation people had no morals and would have gawped at a naked lady instead of averting their eyes like the Puritans would. That’s at least a Who and a When.

six Ws

The more answers to the six Ws the better (links to PDF)

Public records

We know about Godiva from the Domesday Book (another What) and that her estates were worth £160 (a How much).

We know that in 1043 she and Leofric founded a Benedictine house of 24 monks on the site of St Osburg’s Nunnery, which had earlier been destroyed by the invading Danes – Lady Godiva is said to have had her jewellery melted down to make crosses. This became Coventry’s first cathedral and its remains can be seen in Priory Row.

And we know she died in 1067. So that’s a lot of Whens and Wheres.

Out of interest there is a sculpture of Peeping Tom in Cathedral Lanes shopping centre. So we have quite a lot more Whos, Whats, Wheres, Whens, Whys and Hows.

six Ws

Nearly answered all the six Ws (links to PDF)

The taxman cometh

Let’s think differently. Imagine we were working on a tax or accountancy website. Have we answered all the questions?

We’d want to know how much the tax was. The tax was based on a hide of land and a hide was enough to feed a family. The Abbey of Coventry (which had 24 Monks) had three hides, for example.

There are records of how much was collected in total for Canute at various times. This is all in the How section as a How much.

Ideally we want to put that in terms we understand today, which is harder as the amount of tax per hide, and how the land owner extracted money from his serf tenants, varied. But it left people hungry and without food and was hugely unpopular. So let’s call it a month’s pay. That’s another How much.

Did Godiva convince Leofric to stop collecting the tax?

Your tax watcher would also want to know if the tax protest worked. Well Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon of about 1257 confirmed that Leofric stopped collecting all taxes except those on horses.

This was such an amazing fact that it was later reinvestigated and confirmed under an inquiry ordered by Edward I. His reign was 1272-1307. That’s two Whos and Whens.

six Ws

Taxing questions answered in the six Ws (links to PDF)

From the horse’s mouth

Let’s start again and imagine we are writing for a website aimed at 10- to 14-year-old girls who go horse riding. Have we answered all the questions?

No, we need to know more about the horse. Godiva’s horse was called Aethenot. Aethenot is a male name so let’s guess it was stallion. It is often portrayed as grey, or milky white. So that’s a Who and two Whats.

Horse riders would want to know how big Aethenot was. From statues, let’s say it was 16 hands high (horses are measured in hands and anything less than 14.3 hands is a pony). They would also want to know how Godiva rode, so let’s go with sidesaddle to protect the dignity of a naked lady. There are reports she rode at a gallop. Those are Hows.

six Ws

The six Ws are different from a horse rider’s perspective (links to PDF)

Most important

As you can see, when you ask those six questions, you often get a lot of answers. Let’s decide what the most important of those answers are. We have six already: Lady Godiva, ride, naked, Coventry, 1035AD, to cut taxes.

We also decided we needed horse in there for SEO. Actually, unless we know Godiva rode at midday on market day the story makes little sense, so let’s add that When. We need to say it was her husband collecting the tax. We could throw in Peeping Tom, who looked, and add that it was King Canute’s Heregeld tax.

So now we try to join those keywords with as few additional words as possible

That gives us:

Lady Godiva’s naked Coventry horse ride at midday on market day 1035AD – watched by Peeping Tom – stopped her husband Leofric collecting King Canute’s Heregeld tax. (that’s 25 words)

What comes next?

Let’s explain the tax, the dare and that Leofric did indeed cut the tax. That means we need Leofric and Godiva again from Who – repetition is better than variation when it comes to search terms.

We need dare, and we need that it was because of the art containing nudes and Godiva’s connection with the arts and we need the evidence that all tax collection did stop. So, that gives us:

Leofric dared Godiva to ride naked because the Greek and Roman paintings Godiva loved included nudes. Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon (1257) – and an inquiry under Edward I (1272 to 1307) – found that Leofric stopped collecting taxes except for those on horses.

And finally

Lastly we ought to cover the Peeping Tom story. Again that means Godiva, but also Coventry’s residents and Peeping Tom from Who.

From What we need that Tom was a tailor, that Godiva asked the people not to look, but that one did and that he was blinded by God. We can probably add that Leofric from Who converted to Christianity. Join those together and we get:

Godiva asked Coventry’s residents not to look. One man, a tailor called Peeping Tom, looked. He was blinded by God, leading Leofric to convert to Christianity.

That is the story in a nutshell in fewer than 100 words. There’s plenty left over to either continue, or break into chunks, with sections on the main players, or on the tax, or on horses, or on religion.

Horse website

If you worked on that horse website we talked about earlier, you would do the same thing but make different choices about the most important keywords.

You would probably still have Lady Godiva, Leofric, ride, horse, Coventry and naked but you’d also have Lady Godiva’s horse Aethenot, grey stallion, sidesaddle, gallop and 16 hands high. That would give you:

Naked horse rider Lady Godiva galloped her 16-hands grey stallion Aethenot sidesaddle when she rode through Coventry after a dare from her husband Leofric.

You would adjust your second and third paragraphs accordingly.

Tax matters

If your website were about tax you would concentrate on the tax points and perhaps begin:

Lady Godiva’s naked horse ride stopped her husband Leofric collecting the Heregeld tax for King Canute, according to Ranulph Higden’s Polychronicon (1257) and an inquiry by Edward I.

Divine intervention

And if you were a religious writer you might look for the religious points and begin:

Religious Puritans claimed that Lady Godiva’s husband Leofric converted to Christianity because God blinded Peeping Tom for looking at the naked Godiva riding her horse through Coventry.

Sentence length

Only one of those intro sentences is 30 words long. I’d say 30 words is the max for the intro paragraph and all sentences after this should be shorter.

But if people read only your intro sentence they should know more than before they read it – and, crucially, they should know that this is a web page that has the information they were looking for.

They should be prepared to scroll.

Read more.. or Continue reading..

Some websites will initially only display the first sentence or two and then have an option to click to read more. This was common, especially for subscription sites where you needed to pay to access the following content.

If that is the case you need to make the first sentence attractive enough to make people click to read more, or add a sentence that makes that clear, such as “But that’s not all…” or “You’ll never guess what happened next”.

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List-based journalism

Journalists can also write the Lady Godiva story as a list, taking all the answers to the six Ws as separate points.

37 naked Lady Godiva horse ride tax protest facts


Buzzfeed lists: Quirky number, jokes, video, photos, embedded content and serious journalism

List-based journalism has become popular since Buzzfeed broke the mould. In print and on TV screens lists would be top threes, top fives or possibly top tens. Any more would take up too much space (with the exception of pure lists, such as the Sunday Times’ Rich List).

The lack of space restrictions online allows lists to be as long as you like. The more unusual and quirky the number the more likely your readers will engage.

Subjects can be serious – take this Buzzfeed report into an international counter terrorism exhibition in London.

In this case, each photo, gif, or embedded video for the 13 numbered points was taken by the reporter, but in other examples none are – all are sourced online. The commentary is just a sentence or two for most of them, with a three sentence introduction, a standfirst and a headline.

Other differences

The tone is also different. The Telegraph might have editorialised about how the UK was a centre of the fight against terrorism and The Guardian might have editorialised about selling instruments of oppression to authoritarian regimes.

Buzzfeed, however, played it with a straight bat, allowing the reader to be either enthused or horrified by the content alone.

The other journalism rule Buzzfeed breaks is the old adage that you should treat serious subjects seriously. Even in a potentially heavy piece on a serious subject Buzzfeed will often find time for a joke – in this case, how one of the dummies looks likes Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in point 4.

Buzzfeed doesn’t always do lists. This is the first political interview (with Kezia Dugdale), done entirely in emoji.



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Search engine optimisation (SEO)

This is a massive oversimplification of search engine optimisation (SEO) to help writers focus on what they can do to influence the likes of Google – a search engine.


Google – other search engines are available

Search engines send out automated programmes (spiders) to trawl the worldwide web looking at the key words on a page and following the links to and from that page to see if the same key words are there (and in pages linked beyond).

They compile all this data and then apply a complex calculation (called an algorithm) to decide which are the most relevant pages for any given search – a league table, if you like. When you search the net, Google is not searching in real time but giving you a league table it prepared earlier.

Key words and links

The main things journalists can do to improve SEO is to use (and repeat) the key words people are likely to be searching for (in body copy, headlines and picture captions) and include relevant links – both from your content and to it (via social media and other websites).

But we do not always click the top hit on Google – so you also need to make sure what people see is attractive. Search engines will read all the words in headlines and copy when deciding where to rank your page but are likely to display only the first 60 characters of a headline and the first 160 characters of the first paragraph on your story. So concentrate on the first paragraph and the headline.

If your content management system (CMS) has an SEO function (possibly a plug-in) then you may have to write extra key words and alternative headlines and first paragraphs too. You may also have to write a separate headline for your RSS feed, plus the Facebook and Twitter messages linked to each post.

Responsive  (tablets and mobiles)

There is a lot more to SEO – In 2015, for example, Google announced that sites that were “responsive” – worked on tablets and mobiles – would be placed higher up the league table than sites designed for computer browsers only.

But much of the other SEO work is down to web developers. Journalists need to concentrate on key words in headlines, the first paragraph, body copy and in picture captions. And include relevant links.

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Headlines and sub-headings

Headlines are important for SEO and for making web-searchers click on your link, but they must not repeat word for word your first paragraph.

SEO box

Search engines normally show the first 60 characters of a headline

While all the words in a headline will count for SEO, only the first 60 characters (including spaces) are likely to be displayed. So those 60 characters are the most important. Front-load headlines with key words.

Use sub-headings to break up text into chunks. Each sub-heading should relate directly to the content below to tell users what follows. This enables users to scan quickly to find the section they seek.

Correct formatting

Headlines are generally automatically formatted by the content management system (CMS). Sub-headings must be correctly formatted in a heading style.

Headings are formatted using the cascading style sheet (CSS) – with the main navigation headline in h1, and similar page headlines in h2. The first sub-heading size is often h3 but websites with complex reports may run to h5 or more.

Formatting may be done using a drop-down text format tool in the CMS or by using html to write the relevant heading code  around the headline under the html tab – headline 3 is <h3> headline to be coded</h3>.

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Hyperlinks and anchors

Internal links can be to other pages on your site, to a jargon-buster definition list or even to another part of the same page (an anchor).

If your content management system (CMS) does not include an anchor function (and you cannot add it through a plug-in such as WP-Edit on WordPress) you can code the anchor in html.

You can also make links from bullet points to sections within the same page. The HTML code to create an anchor is <a name=”anchor name”></a> and you place this where you need to anchor to be. The link to it, instead of being an http:// URL  is simply #anchor name. If you code this yourself it is <a href=”#anchor name”>Link copy</a>.

Anchors are ideal for A-Zs in a page, such as below, or for shorter menus using key words.


The HTML code for the above A-Z is available as a text file to copy and paste.

External links

External links normally need to be to specific pages (deep links) rather than to the home pages of websites. You might want to have a target for including three or five links with each post. More is better.

Links must not be an afterthought: bad choices of links (think of your editorial and ethical values) will undermine your reputation. Simply warning “We are not responsible for the content of external links” is not enough – if you would not condone/accept/promote that kind of content on your site do not link to it.

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Embedding photos and video

Every post needs at least one photo. Many sites also demand video on all or most posts. You might have to compile a gallery or slideshow using lots of photos.

Wales Online: 30 pictures that will make you want to drop what you're doing and head straight to Pembrokeshire

Slideshows are often used to increase page views as each photo counts

Sites use these to bump up clicks and traffic stats, as every viewed photo is recorded as the user viewing an additional page. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to create a gallery of 30 or so photos.

You can upload your own  but you will first have to resize them so you do not post large files that would be slow to load. You might also have to create your own image macro (pictures with added text) or animated gif.

You can also use your own, or other people’s, content already uploaded online. Rather than link to external content it is often better to embed it in your story (post) – individual Tweets; Facebook status updates (public ones); videos from YouTube, Vimeo or Vine; photos from Flickr or Instagram, audio from Audioboom and Soundcloud and so on.

Copy and paste

Most social media sites offer the embed code as option, so all you need to do is copy and paste it. You usually need to paste the embed code into the html element of your content management system (CMS). This may be called “text”, “source” or “html”.

Many social media sites use three little horizontal dots (or circles) to indicate where to click to get the embed code (Twitter, Instagram, for example) but others use an arrow, the word “share” or, on mobile, a square with an arrow breaking out of the top.

Whichever, you may then have some options, such as to include captions, but all you need to do is copy the given code and paste it into the html tab of your CMS. When you click back on the “visual” tab you will often see a plain box or some disjointed text. But this will still publish correctly.

Windows users use Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V to paste
Mac users use cmd(apple)+C to copy and cmd(apple)+V to paste

Instagram example

Three dots (circles) marked. Click on that and you get the embed code


Instagram share option, bottom right – three dots (circles) marked by red arrow

Choose to display the caption or not, then copy the given code

embed window

Instagram embed function: choose caption or not then copy code

Pasted in the main “visual” box (or tab), you will simply get the code showing as text:

<blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version=”6″ style=” background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% – 2px); width:calc(100% – 2px);”><div style=”padding:8px;”> <div style=” background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50.0% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;”> <div style=” background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;”></div></div> <p style=” margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;”> <a href=”” style=” color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;” target=”_blank”>Given a fine bottle of Rioja, we had to eat Spanish. Patatas bravas, spinach &amp; chickpeas in cumin, green beans in tomato, garlic mushrooms, spicy prawns, aioli, garlicky tomato, chorizo, manchego, bread and olives.</a></p> <p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”>A photo posted by Chris Wheal (@whealie) on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2016-01-03T18:56:25+00:00″>Jan 3, 2016 at 10:56am PST</time></p></div></blockquote>

<script async defer src=”//”></script>

But pasted into the html (source or text) box you will display the embedded image:

Note: With blogs, you just need to paste the Instagram photo’s URL into the main content, not the html, and it will display. Many others, such as Audioboom, also provide specific code for blogs.


Specific code for blogs on Audioboom

A word on copyright

Just because a photo is online does not mean it is free from copyright and can be used willy-nilly. You need to establish that copyright has expired or that the necessary licence (license in US spelling) permits your usage.

One popular online licence is Creative Commons, but there are variations of this. You might be permitted to use it commercially or not, to edit it or not, and so on. Using photo sites such as Flickr, or Google images, you can set your search only to find images with licences permitting usage and modification.

Google image search

Set the licence in Google images to only show images you can use freely

But sometimes the image you want will have restrictions. On an image sharing site, if the photo’s copyright owner has not disabled embedding, you can still embed the photo, but you cannot download and edit (crop) it.

But often, if you contact the copyright owner and ask for permission to publish, explaining what it is for, they will agree. The photo below is a cropped version of a photo with all rights reserved. The copyright owner, Tony Worrall, gave me permission to use it, cropped, when I asked.

Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom effigy in Coventry, Flickr: Tony Worrall Foto (with kind permission)

Make sure you correctly credit images and set the image you use to link back to the original source. There will be specific credit rules for images bought from commercial photo libraries too.

Wikipedia is a useful source for images that can be used. Clicking an image used in Wikipedia allows you to go to the source and read the licence and details of the photos. You can often download a larger format of the photo and then edit it yourself, re-posting with the appropriate picture credit.

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Every story will need a category. Most stories will only have one category. Categories are often the subject of the post. They may themselves be sub-categories of a wider title – so, you might have a category for sport and then sub-categories for football, cricket, tennis etc.


Categories can be used to create a menu too.

You, or your web developer, can use the categories to make the menu system work – so that the sport menu button will show all the stories in all the sub-categories but the cricket menu button will show only the cricket stories. The menu at the top of this site is created entirely using categories.

As a writer you will have to choose a category for each post.

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Tags are key words, terms and proper nouns that appear in each story but also appear in other stories. They enable the reader to click on the tag and see all the other stories/posts that have the same tag. So if you tag a person named in the story, clicking on that tag would show all the other stories in which that person was tagged.


Tags on a story about Lady Godiva

When you start a website, or you start a story about a new subject, you might not have a tab for a specific term or proper noun – often web editors wait until you have three stories that could have that tag added and then you go back and add them to the existing posts.

Sometimes, authors can only use existing tags and not create new ones, so if you wrote three stories in quick succession and needed a new tag, you’d need to request that one be created and, once it had been created, go back and add that tag to your three stories.

Each post will usually have at least five tags.

Writing | List |SEO | Headings | Links | Embedding | Categories | Tags | Compliance | Social media | Curation


Websites used to be made with fixed designs, fonts, font sizes and colours. That made them inaccessible to the visually impaired.

Then came a set of international standards (available from the Equality and Human Rights Commission)  that mean all websites can be shrunk and enlarged, read out loud by screen reading software such as Jaws (see video), and automatically remove  problematic colours or moving visuals to suit different users.

While most of these standards concern web developers, some rules affect writers. In the main these are:

  • Putting sub-headings in correct heading format (not just bold) so users can scan the page electronically for sub-headings
  • Writing “alternative attribute” description of photos, tables and graphs – as short as possible with key words first (just the person’s name, or “landscape” for a country scene, or “car” for a generic vehicle)
  • Ensuring links that open new windows warn that they do this (either every link needs this warning or group all such links under a heading that says “Links (new windows)”

NB: make sure you comply with copyright law on your use of photos etc.

Social media

Once you have published your story you’ll need to promote it – on Facebook and Twitter as a minimum.

    • Shorten your link
    • Include the user name of people mentioned in your story – confirm it is the correct account, not a spoof account or someone with a similar name (see @johnlewis on twitter)
  • If there are relevant hashtags, use them. If there isn’t a trending hashtag, try to start one.
  • Tweets with pictures have a much higher engagement, so always try to include a photo.

You might post differently at different times of the day or on different social media. These might include:

  • In a factual way: “Lady Godiva’s naked tax horse ride protest”
  • Clickbait-style: “Naked on a horse, you’ll never believe what Lady Godiva did next”
  • Starting a discussion: “Would you horse ride naked to cut your tax bill?”

There are plenty of other examples you could think of – but you need to be creative and try to get as many retweets, shares and clicks.

And social media is not a one-way street. If people respond to your posts, you will need to react to that too – but don’t get involved in arguments with trolls.

Writing | List |SEO | Headings | Links | Embedding | Categories | Tags | Compliance | Social media | Curation


An online journalist will often curate others’ work.

Guardian website

The Guardian uses video and tweets to detail Jeremy Clarkson’s prior gaffs

This might mean pulling together what others have said, posted or written about a news event; itemising related facts; or dredging up previous examples of something similar. Often these are presented as a list.

You might take snippets from news sources’ websites, tweets from those involved or watchers/commentators, videos from broadcasters and news outlets, YouTube videos from the public, photos posted on social media. Many of these will provide the embed code.

Validate and verify

Your job is to find, validate (because curating false or inaccurate content is embarrassing), embed and clearly label/credit the content. You might also write short linking content or descriptions. Your commentary can often be chatty, opinionated or jokey.

Whereas lists in print might have included three, five or possibly ten things, lists online can be any number – the stranger the number the better – and much longer.

Writing | List |SEO | Headings | Links | Embedding | Categories | Tags | Compliance | Social media | Curation


Whealie is the trademarked nickname of award-winning freelance journalist Chris Wheal. Follow @whealie on Twitter Wheal's Business website is He sometimes blogs at He's on Facebook: And LinkedIn: Flickr: Instagram: YouTube: Vimeo:

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