Both as a student and in other aspects of your life, you are likely to write information and publish it on the Internet. Some examples of possible Internet writing that many people take part in are chat rooms, social networking sites like Facebook, voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) platforms like Skype, e-mail, mobile cellular texts, online distance-learning coursework (such as assignments, group projects, and discussion forums), blogs and responses to blogs, instant messages, wikis, nonacademic discussion forums, web-based memorial sites, responses to online newspaper articles, and job applications.
Like every other kind of written communication, how you write on the web depends on the purpose of the specific situation. In reality, you’ve probably developed a pretty good system for running your web-based communication. If you have an unlimited text plan and maintain at least one profile on a social networking site, you concern yourself with matters of voice, message, audience, tone, attitude, and reception hundreds of times a day.
Because you are often multitasking while texting or using the web and because of the speed and convenience of electronic communication, this realm is prone to carelessness. In casual situations, rules are minimal and you can use very casual language that includes abbreviations, slang, and shortcuts. Your use of a casual tone depends solely on whether your audience will understand what you are saying. Writing for school or work does not fall into the casual category. In these situations, you cannot use abbreviations, slang, and shortcuts. In fact, you need to use proper punctuation, grammar, and capitalization. You should also use traditional writing rules and a more formal tone when responding to diverse populations and serious situations.
Whether writing in a casual or formal situation, always be aware of the population that has access to your content. Also keep in mind that even if you are writing on a semiprivate venue like a class-wide course management system or on an invitation-only wiki, your digital text can easily be copied by someone with access and forwarded to someone without access. So don’t write anything that could embarrass or cause problems for you or others.
Due to the non-private nature of the Internet, you should not provide full contact information. Depending on the situation, you might choose to use your full name (such as in an online class or on a memorial condolence site) or you might choose to use a pseudonym (such as in a response to a blog or to an online newspaper article). Only give your phone number and address when you are on very secure sites. Never post your social security number online.
You may have occasion to create websites for professional, personal, or academic reasons. Whether you create a site to supplement a résumé, to serve as a common, virtual family meeting place, or to showcase individual or collaborative work you’ve done for a class, you should follow some basic guidelines to make sure your website is aesthetically pleasing and well organized, so that it functions well and accomplishes its purpose.
Making a Website Aesthetically Pleasing
Use relevant photos, graphics, and font variations to give your site interest. Leave plenty of white space. A crowded web page is not inviting. Use an easily readable font and font size with ample leading. Small tight text is hard to read and many Internet searchers will skip such a site and move on to the abundance of other choices. Take care when choosing background and font colors. Make sure your background does not engulf the text making it hard to read. As a rule, make your background light and your text dark. Take care when choosing background effects. A very busy background can detract from your content.
Making a Website Well Organized
Plan for little or no scrolling. Instead include clearly marked navigation links to move to different parts of the information. Include navigation links to all parts of the website from all pages so a person never feels stuck on a page. Design an overall look that holds from page to page to give your website consistency. Use an easily recognizable format for navigation links so that they clearly stand out.
Making a Website Work Well
Use images that are between forty and one hundred kilobytes to ensure clear images that are easily and quickly loaded on most people’s computers. Since one hundred kilobytes is the maximum suggested size, you will have your best luck if you stay well below that level. Match your level of use of technology tools to your needs. Don’t add features just to try to make your site impressive. Remember that the more features you add, the more likely it is that someone will have trouble with your site. Some people’s computers will have trouble with very involved opening pages that include audio and video. If you choose such an opening page, also include an override button for people who can’t or don’t want to view the opening page. Make sure all the links and paths are very obvious and that they all work smoothly.
Making a Website Accomplish Its Purpose
Make sure the home page is uncluttered and clearly states the purpose of the website. This is the main chance you have of attracting attention. Make the website as visual as possible. The more quickly a person can glance through web content, the more likely the person is to take in the information. You can make a site visual by including subheadings that stand out, relevant images, short blocks of text, white space between blocks of text, and numbered or bulleted lists. Keep the website up to date. Depending on the content and purpose of the website, keeping it up to date could be a daily, weekly, or monthly chore. Consider that a site that is out of date ceases to be visited. Include a contact link so viewers can reach you. Remember that anyone with Internet can access your site. Take care with the information you post. Always assume that your instructors, employers, parents, or friends will see it.
Creating an E-portfolio
Just a few years ago, a portfolio, or collection of your work, would most likely have been a collection of printed papers arranged in a file folder or hand-bound into a booklet. Today you are more likely to create an e-portfolio, a digital collection of your work that is usually accessible to others online. Whether paper or digital, the purpose of a portfolio remains for you to showcase and reflect upon your skills.
General Portfolio Guidelines
As with any other kind of communication, base your portfolio planning on your reasons for building one. For example, you might design a portfolio to apply for admission or scholarships to colleges, to apply for a job, to network with other professionals in your field, to complete a school assignment, to collect your artistic work, or to explore a personal interest. The following guidelines are useful for all portfolios, regardless of whether they are designed to meet an academic, professional, aesthetic, or social purpose:
- Consider carefully your choices of what to include (known as artifacts) and choose those that showcase the most impressive variety of your skills. If you are a writer, showcase different writing skills or a progression in the development of your writing skills (showing “before” and “after” drafts). If you are a salesperson, showcase different types of sales accomplishments.
- Keep the number of choices under ten in an employment portfolio so that a prospective employer could reasonably look at all the options. If you have multiple categories, such as writing samples, work accomplishments, and volunteer experiences, you could consider having up to ten items within each category.
- Read through all the choices to make sure you are 100-percent pleased about the content. Do not rely on memory to tell you that an item is OK to use.
- Label and date each selection.
- Create an explanation of each chosen item.
- Make sure all your selected items are free of errors.
- Arrange your selections from most to least impressive unless you have a reason to arrange them differently, such as in chronological order, keeping in mind that someone might start through your portfolio and not finish it.
Electronic Portfolio Guidelines
Follow these guidelines to take better advantage of the forms, functions, and features an online environment can bring to portfolios:
- Create an introductory page with links to the other pages. Make sure the introductory page is short enough to minimize scrolling.
- Consider establishing or incorporating some kind of social presence (perhaps with an appropriate photo or with an audio or video greeting) on the introductory page. Make sure your tone (the relationship between your portfolio’s voice and your audience) achieves an appropriate level of formality, depending on the working relationship you already have with your audience.
- Include a one-line description of each link as a pre-introduction to the portfolio item when you list the links on the introductory page.
- Choose whether to include multimedia pieces, such as video and audio clips, depending on the capabilities of the site where you are posting your portfolio.
- Convert each page or file to a PDF file or a JPEG so that you can be assured that the formatting will remain fixed. After you create each PDF file or JPEG, open it to make sure it converted properly.
- Traverse your e-portfolio thoroughly when you’re finished building it to check out all the links and make sure everything is working and looks OK. Then ask a friend to do the same on a different computer. Ideally you should road test the portfolio from both a PC and a Mac platform. By road testing, you are effectively anticipating your portfolio’s reception (the relationship between your audience and the message you are conveying).
- Include a link to a self-profile as well as a link to your résumé.
- Keep your e-portfolio up to date. This task is especially important if your e-portfolio is posted where others can access it without your knowledge.
Here is a sample student website from Dr. Palmer’s ENG 101 course: karenpalmer.weebly.com