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20 tips for writing for the web

Eric Reiss shares web writing tips that he has gathered over the years. It sems that George Orwell’s rules are a must-have in any such list.

George Orwell, the English author of 1984, Animal Farm and other classics, has six rules of writing. Here they are – they’re all gems:

1) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.
2) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4) Never use the passive voice when you can use the active
5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday equivalent.
6) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous!

On iTunes U: Guide to writing research papers

Just received this from Apple news:

"Need to write a research paper for a summer course? Then you’ll want to pay a visit to the Florida Community College at Jacksonville and sign up for English Composition II. The 24-unit video course provides a comprehensive resource for writing academic essays. And you can also learn about technical writing, writing for business, and literary analysis, as well."

A resource for writing research papers (direct launch on iTunes).

Writing an Interface Style Guide

Jina Bolton writes about keeping the interface relevant and useful even after the launch. Her key -- interface style guides.

"Interface design standards enable brand stewardship. Commonly documented in a design “style guide,” these standards inform clients and content editors of branding guidelines for typography, whitespace, color, etc. The design style guide provides a reference in which developers can describe the way the interface is intended to look, and helps designers to be consistent as the interface is updated so that, in turn, the interface continues to feel consistent."

Better Writing Through Design

When building websites, information architecture is not the only structure there is. There is also the visual structure and then the most important of them all: the structure of the copy or the written text. A good IA may support a bad visual structure but it surely can't support a bad copy.

Good copywriting takes time. It is a design process. And like all design processes it requires one to do the research and build a strategy. This is why a copywriter should be involved right from the start, and not as an last-minute add-on when everything is complete. I still believe the it is much better to teach subject matter experts good copywriting skills than hire an external copywriter for short durations to fix broken content.

This article got me thinking on the role of the IA in supporting the visual language:

Ideally, you should work with a writer from day one to design the voice of the copy in conjunction with the visual language of the site. And getting a writer involved early can help you solve lots of other problems—from content strategy issues to information architecture snags. Remember that writers are creatives too, and they are, in many cases, the keepers of the content your design ultimately serves.

Improve the writing in your organisation

Here's a template to write 100 word articles. Pretty neat. [Phil Turner]

A template to write 100-word articles

Writing a Good Accessibility Statement

Nice tutorial on writing good accessibility statements. Did not think of them like that before. Well worth a read.

Accessibility statements are an ideal place to empower visitors to your website. Most accessibility statements are too technical, and don't necessarily address the needs of the visitor. Those that do address the needs of visitors often have the information lost in a myriad of other information that is unlikely to be understood by the average visitor to the website. What should and shouldn't be included in an accessibility statement?

Writing a Winning E-Learning Proposal

This article from eLearn Magazine offers some nice guidelines to writing a effective RFP. Here's an interesting one: "Develop a capture strategy: A capture strategy is a systematic plan for the synchronization of all of your proposal elements to support your solution and present it in the best possible light. The capture strategy is the plan you have for winning the work from the client." My experience in writing RFPs is that it all depends on the client. Some clients just want you to fill in the blanks. You try being creative: they think you're trying to hide something.

Gerry McGovern: Metadata: seven tips for writing better keywords

Gerry McGovern: Metadata: seven tips for writing better keywords

Tip three: "Make sure that the most important keywords get used in the heading and summary. Always lead with your best keywords. You are not writing a murder mystery. Tell them who did it in the heading."

Quality Web Content: Writing Resources

Quality Web Content: Writing Resources

Good articles on the writing web content.
[thanks infodesign]

Contentious: Strong Finish: Writing Effective Conclusions

Contentious: Strong Finish: Writing Effective Conclusions

"In order to make things happen, people must read your document and thendo something with your information. For instance, they might use your document in making decisions, forming opinions, or influencing the opinions and decisions of others. They may follow your instructions to complete a task or assess a situation or option. They may alter their priorities. They may recognize new opportunities, problems, or risks. And so on. The "...and then do something" part is where your document's conclusion comes in. Your conclusion should move readers from information to action."

Web writing that works: Resources

Web writing that works: Resources

I use this site regularly to review and check my own writing. It is very useful resource to have at hand.

Gerry McGovern: Seven deadly sins of web writing

Gerry McGovern: Seven deadly sins of web writing

"What's the single most important thing that could improve the Web? It's not broadband. It's better writing. The general quality of writing on the Web is poor. The way you write has a major impact on what people think of you. Avoid these common mistakes and you will achieve more with your website."

Gerry McGovern: Metadata is essential web writing skill

Gerry McGovern: Metadata is essential web writing skill
"Metadata gives your content context. Content that does not have effective metadata is not web content. It is sloppy, next-to-useless print content that has been unprofessionally published on the Web. If you don't have time to publish professional metadata for your content, you shouldn't be allowed to publish anything on a website."

Harvard Working Knowledge: Take the Fat Out of Your Writing

Harvard Working Knowledge: Take the Fat Out of Your Writing
"Clarity is far and away the most important attribute of tight writing. For if the purpose of writing is to communicate a particular message, then no matter how concise your writing, how impeccable your spelling and grammar, how interesting your topic

DG Jerz: Blurbs: Writing Previews of Web Pages

DG Jerz: Blurbs: Writing Previews of Web Pages "On the web, a blurb is a line or short paragraph (20-50 words) that evaluates (or at least summarizes) what the reader will find at the other end of a link. A good blurb should inform, not tease. Usability testing will help you determine the best way to lay out your blurbs, but this document will help you write the content."

Learning Circuits: Writing for Global E-Learners

Learning Circuits: Writing for Global E-Learners
"Whether you're developing distance learning for a multinational company or communicating with global learners via email, you must ensure that your writing is inclusive. Here are tips for making your e-learning universal..."

Hot Text: Hurray for FAQs

Hot Text: Hurray for FAQs
Traditional Help, even when it is mounted on a Web site, energized with Dynamic HTML and JavaScript, linked to embedded customer assistance, and delivered as active server pages, ... well, even then Help seems like a lecture.
On the other hand, a set of Frequently Asked Questions, even when done poorly, seems like a conversation...

CIO: Underwriting Knowledge

CIO: Underwriting Knowledge
When insurance giant CNA had to consolidate and share what its employees knew, it turned to the Net-and knowledge networks...
Comment: CNA uses the same Q&A exchange model to share know-how, but what's interesting in this case study is the way CNA used storytelling to spread the word around and get employee buy-in. A classic Steve Denning case.

A List Apart: 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web

A List Apart: 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web
Every revision requires new writing, new words that become the essence of the site. Living sites are only as good as today

Grokdotcom: Why Copywriting Online Is

Grokdotcom: Why Copywriting Online Is Different
You're doing your online thing, writing copy you think is captisuasive, but I'm seeing a heck of a lot of stuff that reads like this: "The blankety-blank is the true essence of a high-performance blankety-blank, delivering sizzling blankety-blank in an absolutely refined way. It's a paradigm shift with profound implications for blankety-blank." Trouble is, your online visitors are 'speaking' very differently. Try this eye-opening exercise: Find a product or service that has user newsgroups, message boards or list-serves and compare how that company talks (pay a call on its website) to how its customers talk.

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