Multimodal Writing

Learning Objectives

  • Describe effective techniques for multimodal writing

Multimodal Writing

Many students have extensive experience in multimodal composing outside the classroom. How does that experience translate into writing in college? How can you apply your multiliteracy skills to the multimodal writing that is becoming increasingly popular in college classes? Below, we’ll discuss how to apply your skills and the principles of effective writing to composing in a variety of mediums—including when creating web pages that use text and images, videos, or other kinds of multimedia texts as well as photo and video essays.

Writing for the Web

Just as when you write an essay, when you write for the web, you want to make sure your ideas are clear and that you consider your audience as you write. However, there are some important differences between writing a traditional essay and writing for the web.

When you write for the web, you should keep these key differences in mind:

An ipad and computer.

Figure 1. Choosing media that is relevant to your page will help the reader to have a better understanding of the information you are presenting.

  • Both your sentences and your paragraphs should generally be shorter. You don’t want heavy text on your web page.
  • You’ll generally use a tone of voice that is a little more informal than a traditional, academic tone. When you write for the web, your audience is broader than an academic audience.
  • Use subheadings to help your audience easily scan for main ideas or content that is the most important.
  • Use embedded links, images, videos, and other relevant media to make your page more interesting and appealing. Just be sure that the media is relevant to your content.


A blog is an online journal that is regularly updated. Blogs are often devoted to writing or “posting” about a particular topic. Unlike private journals, blogs encourage readers to interact through written feedback, and bloggers often provide links to similar or useful sites. In this way, bloggers help create an online community, or social network, of people who connect and share information and opinions about a topic.

There are many sites available that allow you to create blog space for free. BloggerTumblr, and WordPress are among the most popular, and creating blog space on these sites is as easy as creating an account, pointing and clicking on style options, and then posting your text and images.

Effective Blogging

There are certain things to consider when writing a blog. Click the plus marks on the interaction to explore and learn about best practices when writing a blog.


Photo Essays

A photo essay is simply an essay that uses images to tell a story or make a point. In a photo essay, images are placed in a specific order in order to send a particular message to an audience. Some photo essays will have text to support the photos or provide details, but some photo essays will have no text at all.

TIPS: The tips below will help you if you are creating your first photo essay.

  1. Pick a specific topic. Just as you need a specific topic or angle with a traditional essay, you need a specific focus for your photo essay.
  2. Do some research. Just as you often need to conduct research to write a traditional essay, it’s important to conduct some research when you create a photo essay. Doing research can help you narrow your focus and have a better idea about what you want to photograph for your essay.
  3. Take more photos than you think you’ll need. It’s important to plan well for a photo essay, and part of that planning involves taking more pictures than you may feel is necessary at first. When it’s time to put your photo essay together, you’ll be thankful if you have a lot of options.
  4. Do not worry about having a fancy camera. You can take some excellent pictures using your cell phone and edit them using Instagram. Instagram will also let you change the look and feel of your pictures using filters, which can allow you to edit your pictures to really fit the mood of the photo essay you are trying to create.

Video Essays

Much like photo essays and traditional essays, video essays tell a story or make a point. The difference is that video essays use video to present the information.

When you make a video essay, you can use video, pictures, text, music, and/or narration to create a video essay that is powerful and effective. If you think about, many music videos are actually video essays, so chances are, you know a lot more about video essays than you might think. And, because the creation of videos for YouTube has become so popular, many professors are assigning video essays as an alternative to traditional essays.

Link to Learning

This sample video essay will give you a good idea about how video and words come together to create an argument.

The process for creating a video essay isn’t that different from creating a traditional essay—at least in the beginning. However, you’ll be working with a lot more technology as you put a video essay together. Still, thanks to some excellent video editors, creating a video essay isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

The following steps will help you get going with your project:

  1. Develop a topic. Using traditional prewriting, work to narrow your topic into something specific. If you’re telling a story, think about good elements of a narrative. If you’re making an argument in your video essay, think about the elements of an effective argument. Once you have your topic and angle, you’re ready for the next step.
  2. Create an outline and a basic script for your video.
  3. Collect your images. You can use still images and/or video you film yourself, but you’ll need to plan for more pictures or footage than you’ll need in order to have plenty of good content to work with.
  4. Collect your voice files and/or music. For example, free Creative Commons music can be found at the Creative Commons Legal Music For Videos site.
  5. Upload your files into your video editing software and begin the process of creating your video essay. Windows Movie Maker for Windows or iMovie for Macs work well, and you can find other options for free movie-editing software on the web, including YouTube.
  6. Share your video essay. You can share your video essay with the world on your web page or on YouTube.


In an effort to save paper and give students an opportunity to share their work in a course on the web, even face-to-face writing classes are making the move to e-portfolios. A portfolio is essentially a collection of your work (in this case writing) that you generally put together at the end of a course or sequence of courses. A portfolio allows you to revise and polish your work and showcase your best pieces. An e-portfolio simply gives you an opportunity to do this online. While some course management systems allow you to create a portfolio within an online course, you may simply use free web space to make your e-portfolio.

When you make an e-portfolio, you should keep in mind that your work will be read electronically, so you should follow good design principles for creating an e-portfolio space that is visually appealing. Of course, you will also want to keep in mind the requirements of your course.

The following guidelines will help you create a quality e-portfolio, but you should consult with your professor about specific requirements that may be different from this suggested list.

  • Be sure to polish your work for your portfolio. If you are presenting essays from a writing course, make sure you revise and edit your work again before posting it to your portfolio.
  • Include a cover or introductory letter. This will allow you to introduce yourself and your work to your audience.
  • Make adjustments to your text to make your writing more appropriate for the web. This means, unless your professor asks for it specifically, you shouldn’t put an APA cover page on your web page, even though you may still use APA formatting for any kind of source documentation.
  • Share your work. A portfolio is a great way to share the work you have created for your college courses with your friends and family. Ultimately, you may even share e-portfolios with potential employers.

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