Web writing example

David Broder, long time and deeply respected political columnist for the Washington Post, included the paragraph below in his column this morning (March 16, 2006). He is quoting from a speech given by Gen. Anthony Zinni in 2002 about the possibility of war with Iraq.

This paragraph is a good example of why writing for the web – using some of the techniques developed by those interested in the topic – could and should be better.

This is not latter-day wisdom from the general. In the summer of 2002, seven months before the war began, he told an audience in Florida what would be required raq, if you’re willing to do it,” he said. “If our economy is so great that you’re willing to put billions of dollars into reforming Iraq. If you want to put soldiers that are already stretched so thin all around the world and add them into a security force there forever, like we see in places like the Sinai. If you want to fight with other countries in the region to try to keep Iraq together, as Kurds and Shiites try and split off, you’re going to have to make a good case for that.”

The column that includes this paragraph was written for the print edition of the Post and shoveled onto the web site without much thought or editing. It is difficult to read because Broder is quoting words from a speech that uses sentence fragments, and he had to do it in a solid paragraph form.

But what if Broder or his editors had used the simple web technique of a bulleted list? With a bit of rewording, here’s how the paragif the United States invaded Iraq. “You could inherit the country of Iraph might have looked:

This is not latter-day wisdom from the general. In the summer of 2002, seven months before the war began, he told an audience in Florida what would be required if the United States invaded Iraq. Zinni said, “You could inherit the country of Iraq, if you’re willing to do it:

    • “If our economy is so great that you’re willing to put billions of dollars into reforming Iraq.

    • “If you want to put soldiers that are already stretched so thin all around the world and add them into a security force there forever, like we see in places like the Sinai.

    • “If you want to fight with other countries in the region to try to keep Iraq together, as Kurds and Shiites try and split off, you’re going to have to make a good case for that.”

The web, because space is not a consideration, can take a mass of words and make them easily digestable. This is a good example of where it can work.

Read more about journalism and issues facing the profession at JPROF.com.

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Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.
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