Digital Writing

Table of Contents

Natural Language

The need for digital writing arises in many situations – for example, written communication such as emails, message boards, and chats and professional writing such as reports, articles, and documents. Becoming proficient in digital writing requires adopting a digital-first view of writing and typesetting in contrast to the print-first view. For example, in digital writing, should page size optimal for reading instead of the A4 paper size. We can set minimal margins on pages. Our document output should be easy to read on a mobile device.

Browser-based document editors make collaborative writing possible on the internet. They make automatic backups on your document, make documents easy to share, add the ability to add comments, and suggest edits to documents. Modern web fonts make reading documents easier. I use Google Docs for collaborative online writing.

Grammar and spelling mistakes in our text are embarrassing and unprofessional. In the digital age, they are easy to correct by using a digital writing assistant. Digital writing assistants go beyond grammar and can analyze whole paragraphs from a text and suggest edits. They make writing high-quality text simpler and faster. With higher-quality text, we can display competence and make our text easier to understand. We should always use writing assistants for editing official texts that other people are going to read. I recommend using Grammarly writing assistant. Grammarly can correct spelling and grammar and suggest edits on correctness, clarity, engagement, and delivery. It also can replace words with synonyms, find definitions for words, detect plagiarism, and has plugins for browsers and Google docs.

Beyond writing assistants, we can also improve our writing quality and style. For example, in his short essay, The day you became a better writer, 2nd look, Scott Adams demonstrates the importance of simplicity and clarity in your writing. Another great resource is William Zinsser’s book, On Writing Well which discusses the principles and methods of good writing and how to write in different forms and attitudes. In good writing, every word is doing useful work. Good writing avoids filler words or words that bring ambiguity or vagueness to the text. The book also contains the most important truth about writing: “Rewriting is the essence of writing.” Good writing is always born out of editing your writing multiple times. I recommend adding time between writing and editing to ease the pain of removing unnecessary text.

We may also need to translate our text into different languages. For best results, translate from English to the target language. Google Translate works well for translating text between different languages.

Markup Language

We can use markup languages to write structured text content such as web pages, scientific articles, and technical documentation. Similar to programming languages, a markup language is a plain-text format with a special syntax. In markup documents, we can write natural language text and other elements such as links, equations, code, and citations. Markup document consists of markup files and assets like images. We can write markup documents using a text editor such as Visual Studio Code.

Depending on the output format, we can produce the markup document’s output using converter software or directly interpreting the markup source files. The benefit of markup documents is the control over details, the plain-text format allowing the use of software engineering tools, and versatility and ability to produce multiple output formats from the same markup source files.

In practice, we should use light-weight markup languages that support a subset of markup with an easier syntax. A light-weight markup document can be converted to a markup document using a converter. My article Scientific Writing with Markdown explores the technical aspects of writing scientific text with Markdown, a popular light-weigh markup language.