4 Things Young People Can Teach You About Online Writing


Editor's note: This story is part of a community-oriented, weekly article series in which Community Manager Caira Conner discusses how to get the most out of PolicyMic.

Here's something you don't know, (probably because I've never announced it): My role as PolicyMic's community manager grew from an idea to have a recurring article on the site that spotlighted pundits doing interesting things. The first ever "pundit of the week" column — featuring a Q&A with politics ninja Roy Klabin — published on March 5th, 2013. With it birthed a space strictly dedicated to showcasing our community, and my definitive role as the person responsible for helping PolicyMic members new and old develop their place with us. 

But enough about me. 

PolicyMic's community is its biggest asset — a community that includes networks of thoughtful writers, readers, commenters and newsletter subscribers; with the relaunched site so too revamped is PolicyMic's commitment to the energy and investment of these exceptional people. We are not a mechanism for unilateral content generation. We are our own tool with which we can debate, empower and educate millennials invested in the world around them. There is never going to be a static point at which the PolicyMic community stops developing, and a primary staff objective is to pay attention to what our pundits have to say.    

Our community's personal perspectives on the news shape this platform, and a column which began as a vehicle to highlight the stories behind particular pundit biases proved an invaluable educative tool for the site to learn from and adapt to our community needs. 

In the spirit of celebrating your generosity, your loyalty and your criticisms, here is is a sampling of key lessons learned from you, dear pundits.

Thank you, PolicyMic community, for your wise words, for sharing your valuable time, and for guiding us on where we need to go next.

1. Give Criticism a Full-Frontal Hug

Look, we know it's not easy pouring your energy, time, and perhaps a small piece of your soul into a story, only to have it ripped apart in the comments section. (Oh yes, we know).

Widespread negative feedback could be enough for any writer to retreat in disappointment, but it's the PolicyMic community's vigor and diversity that attracts new members and keeps current ones engaged. 

Some of the best emails I get are from friends of current community members who want to join the platform because of what they've heard and read about it, including that this is the place to have your ideas challenged. 

In the wise words of Medha Chandorkar, "The biggest thing I've learned is how to respond to negative feedback, especially to my own ideas."

2. Go Bold Or Go Home

Nate Abrams believes "The best way to engage on PolicyMic is to make bold statements while keeping an open mind." 

How right he is.

There are divided perspectives (and will be) on the PolicyMic comments section, but we pride ourselves on offering a rich source of idea exchange across ideologies.

Best reasons to write online? You can 1.) expand your audience and reach, 2) improve your writing, and 3) engage with people whose views are different than your own. 

Not too shabby.

Adds Robinson O'Brien-Bours, "As long as I'm able to change a few opinions and have my own views challenged, I am happy. If I can spark an interest in something that someone hasn't thought seriously about before, or get people to look at something in a different light, then I have been successful."

3. Crowds Happen, Keep Moving

Mayura Iyer notes that one of the challenges of writing for a platform full of like-minded pundits is that "While each article isn't identical and will differ in some way or the other, having so many articles hammering on the same issue is overkill, dilutes the issue, and decreases the quality of debate."

Look, a number of talented millennials clamoring to write on the same hot-button topic is not a bad problem to have — but watching your piece publish in a news-feed already chock full of similarly-entitled work can feel...anti-climatic. 

As Robert Taylor points out, "It's a double-edged sword. Sometimes it can be frustrating when your article gets buried during the day, but that's only because there is so much content and writers like me eager to have their voices heard." 

The good news is, while you may not be the only outspoken voice on the web on say, U.S. defense, you are the only one capable of delivering a personal take on its related current events. Stay focused on your story, and what you (yes you!) can contribute to a broader context. Nobody else can do that for you.

4. Nothing Rustled, Nothing Gained

I'd never heard the phrase "rustle some jimmies" until Drew Miller was pundit of the week — as in, "When the first commenter started cursing me out...I knew I'd written something that would rustle some jimmies." (See how much we learn from our pundits?)

Drew published a three-part series on the negative effects of evangelical Christianity in the military. Some of our readers loved it. Others did not. But if you're going to write for the web, do so with candor, and prepare to back up your opinions. No matter what field you want to go into — writing, politics, biomedical engineering —effective, respectful communication is a skill you'll need, especially when it comes time to disagree.

Rustle away.

For more news on writing for the web, join me Wednesdays at noon E.T. on Twitter (#TalkPM) with your questions, good jokes, and general insights.