Writing in the digital age: How writing has changed in the 21st century

Do you remember the good old days when writing was a craft in itself? There were no rules, so long as you could engage the reader, provide valuable information and be concise in your language. Now, while all of that is still true today, writing in the digital age has unquestionably changed the industry.

When I was growing up, learning how to write meant putting pen to paper, structuring arguments and making clear statements. No one worried about whether or not the writing was “clickable” or “shareable.” There was no concern over meeting minimum word lengths to make the article viable or get picked up by search engines — hell, search engines weren’t even a thing yet. SEO was non-existent. Stories weren’t framed around focus keywords. You could write however you wanted, whatever fit your style.

But no longer. Today, these are all very real aspects to writing in the digital age. Paragraphs are shorter. If you don’t use enough image or video content the reader won’t be engaged. If the prose is written in long, flowing sentences then they’ll get bored. This is now the world we live in — or, at least, the “norm.”

I don’t want to sound like I’m just knocking blogging — I am a blogger, after all, and I love doing it. For all digitization has done to change writing for the (seemingly) worse, it also comes with immense benefits. It gives everyone a voice. You can connect with anyone, anywhere, at any time. The pure reach is far greater than before.

Still, on some days I can’t help but feel the urge to pick up a pen and write the old fashioned way, say what I want to say, the way I want to say it. No rules. The sad irony, I suppose, lies in me typing this blog post instead. Though you’ll notice it’s short, because now I need to get back to my long prose. If you’re a writer, I think you should do the same — that next book isn’t going to write itself!

Published by Ed A. Murray

Ed A. Murray is an author, freelance writer, digital marketer and blogger dedicated to impactful storytelling. He writes about writing, books, marketing and life, and has published three books of fiction.

10 thoughts on “Writing in the digital age: How writing has changed in the 21st century

  1. Your post helped me make sense of a recent, mostly negative, review I received on Amazon. The reader waxed eloquent about lack of editing, no breaks between character quotes, and “lots of paragraphs filling your screen”. The reader thinks I was writing in some kind of “new style” which was not appreciated!

    I think what you see here is the difference between generations, with an author (me) who does not communicate via text or the pigeon English so common among Millennials and others. How sad! I have no plans to dice up my stories into quick digestible snippets just to satisfy the new “norm”. Perhaps I am an old dinosaur, but surely there are others who feel the same way I do.

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    1. Hey, I’m a Millennial and I’d be disappointed if you changed your style to fit some “new norm.” Literature is supposed to show vital, unique voices that you cannot find elsewhere. It’ll be a sad day when even literature fits into a cookie cutter style.

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  2. There is nothing as satisfying as writing with a real pen, or in my case, pencil on real paper. I find myself taking great care not to make any mistakes and genuinely think about how each word is spelled for the fear of having to erase something and make a mess.

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