Long Form Writing Requires Unique Structure Online

Long form articles abound on the web, and compete for our attention alongside a myriad of other Internet delights. How can long form pieces catch our eye and maintain our attention for the length of time necessary to make it through an article? This week’s New York Times piece, Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing To Do With Self-Control), exemplifies how long form writing can grab (and hold) our modern web-based readers.

Clean, Clear Format
We immediately recognize that this piece is from the prestigious New York Times. But it doesn’t appear as stuffy as a dense, multi-columned newspaper page. The article is laid out in an ideal format for the web. Paragraphs are short, many just one sentence. Bold headings break up the paragraphs to create points of emphasis. The headings maintain the same casual tone of the overall piece, framed as questions, inviting us to dive deeper in search of answers.

Welcoming Tone
The tone of this piece is friendly, familiar, and cordial. The writer is addressing us directly, pulling us in as co-conspirators. The writer asks us whether we procrastinate, and then places no blame or shame on our response. Once we all accept these terms, we can further analyze the issue, and work together to solve it.

The tone is conversational – adopting common language:

“And yet, we do it anyway”

“hey, maybe you even went the extra mile”

“In short: yes”

This easygoing language gives us the feeling that we are in the same room, chatting. This puts us at ease, so that the author can then sneak in some solid research and evidence… and bam – we’re sold on the ideas being presented!

Authentic Credibility
The casual tone of the piece may lure us in, but this writing is a solid and well-researched. We find ourselves amongst no less than five experts– each sharing their knowledge in an easy to digest format. Links out to research studies, as well as to information that helps us define unfamiliar terms, provides the depth that holds this story together.

Practical Solutions
Finally, the article ends with a series of quick, easy to apply solutions to the problems identified in the beginning of the article. In our distracted-reading climate, it is important to give the audience something they can walk away with. The clearly summarized key points of how to fight the procrastination defined in the first half of the article provides that kind of gift, leaving the reader satisfied.

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