Essay vs. Website

By Autumn R. Neal

This week I want to talk about the differences between academic writing and writing for a website or exhibit. I feel like this has one of the most difficult parts of this internship. The past four years of my education have given me a habit of writing in a certain way which includes more formal language, quotations, and citations. Writing for this website is different because I’m not riding for a professor to read a paper. Instead, I’m writing for an audience who may not have any scholarly interests on the topic. This means that I had to get rid of all the citations and quotations and use different language that is not so academic and rigid. The text has to read more like a novel instead of an essay and has to be interesting for someone who doesn’t want to sit down and read an academic paper.

Like I said, my education so far has taught me to write in a certain way and this project has challenged me to change how I write. I kept thinking in terms of introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions. I really needed to be focusing on a narrative and telling a story. This is especially difficult for the script for a video that’s going to play at the beginning of the website. I need to give an overview of Snow’s life in a matter of minutes in a video that would just grab someone’s interest enough to make them want to go browse the site. It has been challenging trying to decide which things to discuss in the video and how to discuss them. I imagine that this is one of the challenges a lot of people face when they change from academic work to public history work. On the other hand, I am always up for something that is going to make me work so it has been a lot of fun trying to figure out how to speak to a different audience.

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