Training held

by Jane Fitzpatrick AE

Report on Editing Digital Content with John Ryan, Saturday 14 September

John Ryan’s guide to editing digital content was informative and entertaining. On-screen reading is different from reading print: people skim text looking for key information, whilst being bombarded with distractions. The key skills of a print editor are needed for digital content, but there are other things we can discard.


Seven print habits we need to break

Thinking that:

1. reading online is like reading print
2. people read what we write
3. people want to spend time reading online
4. clever is good
5. the context of material is constant
6. all readers consume content the same way
7. writing/editing is best done alone.


Lamb in field


A lamb gambols merrily in the dead space.
By Keven Law, Los Angeles, USA –,CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.

Along the way we learned how people read in an F-pattern onscreen (shown here!), meaning the screen has areas of dead space. We got tips on what makes a good heading, we practised cutting the flab from a piece of bureaucratic writing, and we discussed how to structure a website.

Seven do’s for editing digital content

• Delete waffle.
• Use lists.
• Use headings.
• Focus on readers’ needs.
• Make text findable.
• Make text accessible.
• Prioritise top tasks.

Three don’ts for editing digital content

• Don’t allow elegant, lengthy prose.
• Don’t rely on context to give text meaning.
• Don’t use complex, multi-layered structures.

Big tomato small tomato
In digital text, less is more.
Friedrich Haag [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Finally, John advocated for editors and writers to get involved as early as possible in the discussion about content, so that the design is appropriately informed by the content, rather than being an afterthought.

Jane Fitzpatrick is a freelance editor who dabbles in writing, is a member of the Professional Development subcommittee, and can be found