Shorter is better. Less is more. We skim, skip, and scan. The Web has redefined the way we read. The desire for immediacy has given Internet users attention spans that are no greater those of gnats. According to writer Dale Dougherty, we allow a Web page three seconds to grab and hold our attention before moving on to faster and more engaging content. Wait! Don’t leave just yet! I have an important point to make.
As we are ushering into a digital era, print and digital content are beginning to merge. Textbooks are offered in digital formats and iPads, Kindles, and Nooks alike have digitalized books, magazines, and newspapers. Is there still a place for deep reading as we grow accustomed to the style of Web writing in our digitalized world? Do we expect our brains to function like XHTML, remembering to turn off “Web mode” before delving to a difficult book that requires mind-numbing critical thought and analysis?
Just as digital media has shaped our attention spans and process of reading, it has also changed the way in which we write. In Writing for Digital Media, Carroll distinguishes between digital and print writing styles. Web writers recognize that Internet users do not read digital content line by line and word for word. In fact, Web users rarely scroll through a lengthy article and make it to the bottom of the page. Web writers have adopted a unique writing style grounded upon brevity, clarity, and simplicity. Every word counts. How will the future of literature be shaped by our digital world? Will detailed description and lengthy plot lines be replaced with Web writing tactics such as, plain-English, short sentences, and concise paragraphs?
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I hope that you managed to carefully read all 324 words of this post and I challenge you to think about how Web content written for skimming, skipping, and scanning will change the future of reading and writing.