Once upon a time, print journalists could count on design editors to make their work appealing to potential readers. In the digital age, you're obliged to do most of the heavy lifting for yourself—but a bit of acquired savvy can make the burden much easier to bear.

What's "presentation"?

B/R's definition of "presentation" encapsulates all the various adornments with which a writer sells his or her work to the masses, where "selling" entails both an appeal to popular tastes and a projection of personal competence. In concrete terms, we typically gauge presentation skills on the basis of headlines, multimedia assets, copy style, and on-screen formatting.

Why does it matter?

On the Internet, presentation is tantamount to content: The way you package your work changes the substance of the work itself, because it changes the way readers approach and process what you've written. Or, in less philosophical terms: If you leave your words to speak for themselves, it's a good bet that no one's ever going to hear them.

How can I live up to B/R standards?

B/R's best presenters are those who enhance their message in the act of delivering it. To achieve the same success, you'll need to..

Humanize your headlines.

Critics and admirers alike attribute B/R's traffic statistics to ingeniously optimized headlines. As loath as we are to argue with anyone who calls us ingenious, the truth is that appealing to computer search engines is ultimately less important than appealing to human searchers—which is why the most effective titles subordinate optimization to the principles of Readability, Specificity, and Clickability.

Contextualize your visuals.

At a minimum, you should describe every photo in each of your submissions with a relevant one-sentence caption. And if you're serious about reaching readers via multimedia, you should also make a point of spotlighting images and infographics with explicit references in the text of your articles—lest those images and infographics end up simply filling space beside the words.

Incorporate your videos.

If it's important to reference images and infographics in article text, it's essential to do as much for videos, which readers typically won't watch without proper prompting. In that spirit, you'll want to start thinking about pertinent video content before you start writing your first draft—the better to make moving pictures an integral part of the finished work.

Invigorate your polls.

It's one thing to give your readers the right to vote; it's another to make them want to exercise it. Although compelling poll-creation isn't an exact science, it's safe to say that an emphasis on originality—creative questions instead of predictable filler, nuanced answers instead of simplistic Yes-No's—will yield successful returns more often than not.

Standardize your copy.

Nothing kills an online writer's credibility like careless or inconsistent copy style. That's the B/R Stylebook lays down exhaustive guidelines for everything from numbers and stat lines to dashes and capitalization—and why you can't afford to ignore the details on the road to the top.

Optimize your layout.

Great writing has always been a product of great organization. The difference today? More formatting options mean more opportunities to out-organize the competition, with a premium on using elements like slides, subheadlines, block quotes, and bulleted lists to punctuate the flow of your analysis.

Where can I learn more?

For in-depth discussion of the principles outlined above, be sure to check out...

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