A sample assignment for teaching web writing in digital journalism classes

If you are a digital journalism instructor, consider this “writing for the web” assignment in your class – ask students to rewrite a lengthy blog post. Many blog posts are long and written in a print style; they are hard to read on a computer screen and may turn away impatient online readers. A writer is wasting his or her engaging writings if the texts are not optimized for reading online (that is, on a computer screen).


For this assignment, you need to find a long, chunky, difficult-to-read blog post, and rewrite it following the workflow and criteria below:


  1. Read the article; summarize the main ideas/highlights/conclusions in two or three sentences, this will go to the beginning and serve as an overview of the rewritten article.
  2. Read the article again, identify at least three sub-topics, and restructure the article into several sections accordingly.
  3. Work on a subhead for each section; subheads need to be informational (no witty subheads).
  4. Read each section; summarize the main ideas for that section in two or three sentences, this will go to the beginning of each section and serve as a “section overview.”
  5. Break long paragraphs into shorter ones; use lists where appropriate.
  6. Go over the rewriting and write up an article headline that is self-explanatory (reader can get the idea without reading the article; again, no witty headline).

Grading criteria:

  1. A written report that documents your thought process for each step during the rewriting- e.g., for each step, what was the initial idea, why and how you changed your mind? Submit a printout of the original blog post with your report. (30 points)
  2. Article headline is self-explanatory, informational (10 points)
  3. Article overview tells readers what the article is about (10 points)
  4. Article has at least three sections (10 points)
  5. Each section has a self-explanatory, informational subhead (10 points)
  6. Each section has a section overview that tells what that section is about (20 points)
  7. No chunky, long paragraphs (10 points)

Required readings:

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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