Know your medium and genre

The medium and genre of your publication influence the length, structure and tone of your content. Work within the constraints of the medium and genre, and leverage their advantages to get the best outcome.

This section covers:

Print versus web

A print publication:

  • is likely to be read fully and in order, so make sure content has a logical flow
  • limits the user’s experience to the physical page, so make sure it contains all the information needed
  • has a set design, so you have more control over the look of the document
  • can be difficult and costly to update, so ensure that it is well edited and professionally produced the first time.

Shorter documents such as brochures have more rigorous constraints than longer documents such as books. With a brochure, the text must fit within the pages, and each panel must have a clear message. With a book, the text can flow from page to page, and meaning can build up more gradually, but the structure must fit the topic and the audience’s needs.

Online content:

  • is often skim-read by users, so make sure headings, subheadings, links and text catch the user’s attention (see Web content)
  • can be started at any point, so make sure each page has the information needed, or that links make the information clear
  • can link to other content, including audio, video and interactive material, so you can provide users with different experiences
  • can appear differently on different screens, so test on various screen sizes and orientations, and with different browsers
  • can be updated easily at any time, so you can publish the basics and build on it, or make changes readily.
Return to top

Consider your genre

‘Genre’ means the type of publication you are producing (eg novel, report, textbook). Different genres will have different structures and often allow different content features (eg novels rarely use colour photographs; scientific research papers have a specific layout).

Readers understand what to expect from a given genre – they know what they expect to see and read. The conventional structure and features in each genre support its content and help readers to make the most of it. Ignoring these expectations may frustrate the reader and reduce their understanding.

Think about the genre you are working in, and use its conventions to guide readers.

Different genres have different conventions:

  • Length. For example, a novel or textbook is long, and readers expect to settle in for a long read. Newspaper articles are relatively short – a reader suddenly finding that an article is much longer than expected might lose interest.
  • Structure. For example, a novel is loosely structured to offer creative space for readers to engage spontaneously with the narrative and the characters. A textbook uses a formal structure to lay out its subject section by section, and lead the student systematically through the major and minor topics.
  • Paragraph length. For example, academic and scientific writing uses long paragraphs (6 sentences or more) to develop an argumentative point. Newspapers and online content will often use 1- or 2-sentence paragraphs.
  • Language. For example, online writing for the general public uses everyday words and phrases. More abstract words such as acknowledgment, implementation, intervention and subversion are found mostly in formal writing.

Return to top

User login

... or purchase now

An individual subscription is only A$60 per year

Group and student discounts may apply

Australian manual of scientific style Start communicating effectively