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Hot Text: Web Writing That Works

Book Description

Attention, Web writers! This book will show you how to craft prose that grabs your guests' attention, changes their attitudes, and convinces them to act. You'll learn how to make your style fast, tight, and scannable. You'll cook up links that people love to click, menus that mean something, and pages of text that search engines rank high. You'll learn how to write great Web help, FAQs, responses to customers, marketing copy, press releases, news articles, e-mail newsletters, Webzine raves, or your own Web resume. Case studies show real-life examples you can follow. No matter what you write on the Web, you'll see how to personalize, build communities, and burst out of the conventional with your own honest style.

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
    1. Dedication
  2. About the Authors
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. To Teachers
  5. A Message from New Riders
  6. Home Page
    1. “Hot”
    2. “Attention-grabbing”
    3. “Interactive”
    4. “Relevant”
    5. “Sticky”
    6. “Persuasive”
    7. “Informative”
    8. “Conversational”
    9. “Open-handed”
      1. Express your own idea on:
      2. Visit:
  7. 1. Catch the Net Spirit
    1. 1. Who Am I Writing for, and Incidentally, Who Am I?
      1. Get to Know the Audience of One
        1. The more you know about your visitors, the better you can write 0for them
        2. Information consumers are pushy
        3. Figure out who you are really talking to
      2. Make Sense Out of What You Learn about Your Audiences
        1. Psychology at your service:How many ways can you slice a personality?
        2. Analyzing the tasks
        3. Tie consumer profiles to business rules, events, and objects
        4. Lumping people together into small groups
        5. Create personas to represent the people you are writing to
      3. Personalize, Honestly
        1. Fitting into the “ize”
        2. Customizing and personalizing content
        3. Consider your aims, honestly
      4. Develop an Attitude
        1. Cut through the anonymity
        2. Let's talk persona to persona
        3. Express your own idea on:
        4. Subscribe:
        5. Unsubscribe:
        6. Visit:
    2. 2. What Kind of Thing Am I Creating?
      1. Goodbye Documents, Hello Objects
        1. The problems of content
        2. Mark up that text!
          1. The Song of SolomonBook One
      2. Building Informative Objects
        1. 1. Each object starts life as a category of content.
        2. 2. The class has a standard structure.
        3. 3. Each type of object has a job to do.
        4. 4. Objects talk to each other.
        5. 5. The same object can be reused in many different locations and media.
        6. 6. Searches can turn up individual objects, thanks to attributes.
        7. 7. Objects can be assembled quickly, creating personalized content.
        8. Taking an object-oriented approach to structure cuts through the noise
        9. Express your own idea on:
        10. Subscribe:
        11. Visit:
    3. 3. What Will the Web Do to My Text?
      1. Your Words Are Virtually There
        1. Your words look fuzzy
        2. Your words appear and disappear in a moment
        3. On-screen, the most stable words serve as labels, signs, buttons, and directives
        4. People turn to your language for quick indications of structure
        5. Web text is three-dimensional
        6. Caution: Date-stamp your idea of the medium
      2. Web Text = Content + Interface
        1. Text as content
        2. Text as interface element
        3. Working together
      3. Warm, Warmer, Hot!
        1. The chilling effect
        2. Enter the Internet
        3. Raising the temperature
        4. Getting warmer
        5. Finally
        6. Express your own idea on:
        7. Subscribe:
        8. Unsubscribe:
        9. Visit:
    4. 4. Attention!
      1. The Point of Attention
        1. Simplicity saves attention
        2. Writing means paying attention
        3. Express your own idea on:
        4. Subscribe:
        5. Unsubscribe:
        6. Visit:
  8. 2. Write Like a Human Being
    1. 5. Idea #1: Shorten That Text!
      1. Cut Any Paper-Based Text by 50%
        1. Don't make me read!
        2. People use text, to put off reading
        3. Cut on-screen and off
        4. Take several whacks
        5. Save the meaning, cut away the rest
        6. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
      2. Make Each Paragraph Short
        1. Let your guests skip and skim
        2. The ideal: 2 or 3 lines
        3. I'll take the shortcut
        4. Use short words we all know
        5. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
          7. Before
          8. After
      3. Delete Marketing Fluff
        1. Filter out the hyperbole
        2. Be direct
        3. Features and benefits, yes. Hand-waving, no
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
      4. Move Vital but Tangential or Supplemental Material
        1. If most people know it, move it
        2. Move the baby talk, and the esoterica
        3. Let's go to the sidebar
        4. Remove the irrelevant
        5. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
      5. Move Repeating Categories of Information into Tables, Charts, or Graphs
        1. If you want people to compare the data,move it out of the text
        2. Help people visualize the data
        3. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      6. Beware of Cutting So Far That You Make the Text Ambiguous
        1. Preserve that and which
        2. Leave the guts
        3. Punctuation that won't be missed
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
          7. Before
          8. After
        5. Express your own idea on:
        6. Subscribe:
        7. Unsubscribe:
        8. Visit:
    2. 6. Idea #2: Make Text Scannable!
      1. Create a Meaningful Title
        1. Make a title that can survive out of context
        2. Test the first few words as a rollover
        3. Use the same title everywhere
        4. Make a title that gives advance notice of the contents of the page
        5. Make the title echo what users already know, with a twist
        6. Recheck your title in its context
        7. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
      2. Insert Meaningful Headlines and Subheads
        1. Headings should blaze the trail
        2. Use two or three levels of headings
        3. Headings reveal relationships
        4. Announce a new topic
        5. Not too cute
        6. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      3. Highlight Key Words, Phrases, and Links
        1. Boldface what is important
        2. Make links emphatic
        3. Don't overdo the emphasis
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
        5. After
      4. Turn Any Series into a Bulleted or Numbered List
        1. Let people skim
        2. Boldface the lead-ins or headings in the list
        3. If you have a long list…
        4. Put the longest item last
        5. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
        6. Express your own idea on:
        7. Subscribe:
        8. Unsubscribe:
        9. Visit:
    3. 7. Idea #3: Cook Up Hot Links!
      1. Make Clear What the User Will Get from a Link
        1. Give me enough information so I can skip the link
        2. Pop up a description
        3. Short link, big explanation
        4. Match the target
        5. Difficult, yes, but worth trying
        6. Include a relevance rating
        7. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
          7. Before
          8. After
          9. Before
          10. After
          11. Before
          12. After
      2. Within a Sentence, Make the Link the Emphatic Element
        1. Put the most important item last
        2. Don't disrupt your sentence
        3. Move links to the beginning or end of the paragraph
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
      3. Shift Focus from the Links or the Linked-to Documents to the Subject
        1. Don't point out your links
        2. Ignore the apparatus
        3. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
          7. Before
          8. After
          9. Before
          10. After
      4. Provide Depth and Breadth through Plentiful Links to Related Information within Your Site
        1. Be generous—offer more information
        2. Plan, don't improvise
        3. Be wide and shallow
        4. Don't break up a coherent story
        5. Be cautious with links within a page
        6. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
      5. Establish Credibility by Offering Outbound Links
        1. People may be suspicious of you
        2. Link to reviews
        3. Outbound links add value
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
      6. Show Where We Are
        1. You are here
        2. No Up buttons
        3. Branding gives context
        4. Lost in hyperspace
        5. Consider a clickable map
        6. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
      7. Make Meta Information Public
        1. Show what's inside the box
        2. Bring 'em back alive
        3. State the status
        4. Admit who you are
        5. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      8. Write URLs That Humans Can Read
        1. Keep it short and predictable
        2. Don't shuffle your pages
        3. EXAMPLES
          1. Before:
          2. After:
          3. Before:
          4. After:
      9. Make Links Accessible
        1. For people with special needs, label the media contents
        2. Make links in text
      10. Tell People about a Media Object Before They Download It
        1. Let the user decide whether to wait for the download or pass
        2. Warn people before—and during—downloads
        3. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After:
      11. Announce the New with Special Links
        1. You want repeat visitors, don't you?
        2. Advertise content changes
      12. Write So Your Pages Will Be Found
        1. Do you want to be linked to?
        2. Make those keywords visible in ordinary text
        3. Focus your title
        4. Add a description
        5. Use the Meta keyword tag
        6. Got images? Write alternate text
        7. Make link text key
        8. Get out the thesaurus
        9. Don't stray too far from the topic
        10. Invite the spiders to come back
        11. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
        12. Express your own idea on:
        13. Subscribe:
        14. Unsubscribe:
        15. Visit:
    4. 8. Idea #4: Build Chunky Paragraphs!
      1. Design Each Paragraph Around One Main Idea
        1. Make each paragraph distinct
        2. Answer a particular question
        3. Create one sentence that sums up the paragraph's point
        4. Make all the sentences coherent
        5. Proceed from familiar to unfamiliar topics
        6. Look at your paragraph as a structure
        7. Simplify by throwing out other ideas
        8. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
      2. Put the Idea of the Paragraph First
        1. Make the point faster than on paper
        2. If someone actually reads the paragraph…
        3. Revise—be bold
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
      3. If You Must Include the Context, Put That First
        1. Connect the dots
        2. Point back to earlier ideas
        3. Drop transitions that refer to missing text
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
      4. Put Your Conclusion or News Lead in the First Paragraph of the Article
        1. Start with the summary or conclusion
        2. Write the first sentence last
          1. Before
          2. After
        3. Express your own idea on:
        4. Subscribe:
        5. Unsubscribe:
        6. Visit:
    5. 9. Idea #5: Reduce Cognitive Burdens!
      1. Reduce the Number of Clauses Per Sentence
        1. Move or remove that, who, and which clauses
        2. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
      2. Blow Up Nominalizations and Noun Trains
        1. Rescue the verb
        2. Untie the noun knot
        3. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
          7. Before
          8. After
          9. Before
          10. After
      3. Watch Out for Ambiguous Phrases a Reader Must Puzzle Over
        1. When a word can be taken two ways…
        2. Beware modifiers that point forward and backward
        3. It's not a sandwich, except in San Francisco
        4. Don't point offstage
        5. Ixnay on the creative variations
        6. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      4. Surface the Agent and Action, so Users Don't Have to Guess Who Does What
        1. Write actively, to speed people's understanding
        2. Is is OK?
        3. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      5. Make a Positive Statement, so People Understand Right Away—without Having to Unpack a Nest of Negatives
        1. Negatives slow people down
        2. One negative is bad, but two or three will confuse anyone
        3. If you must say NO, say why
        4. Take a positive stance
        5. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
          5. Before
          6. After
          7. Before
          8. After
      6. Reduce Scrolling
        1. Scrolling disorients some people
        2. Some people don't scroll at all
        3. Pack the top
        4. No scrolling menus, please
        5. When scrolling is OK
          1. Before
          2. After
      7. Let Users Print or Save the Entire Document at Once, to Avoid Reading Any More On-screen
        1. Archive the printer-friendly version
        2. Express your own idea on:
        3. Subscribe:
        4. Unsubscribe:
        5. Visit:
    6. 10. Idea #6: Write Menus That Mean Something!
      1. Write a Heading as an Object You Will Reuse Many Times
        1. A heading must be reusable
        2. Write longer headings
        3. Compare your heading with others in its menu
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      2. Write Each Menu So It Offers a Meaningful Structure
        1. People learn by discovering structure
        2. Help people find their way
        3. Menus add value
        4. Group and sequence menu items
        5. Watch your hierarchy
        6. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      3. Offer Multiple Routes to the Same Information
        1. 1,2,3, many menus
        2. See Also
        3. Multiple menus, multiple perspectives
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
          3. Before
          4. After
      4. Write and Display Several Levels at Once
        1. Organize your guest's impressions
        2. Don't hide top-level menus
        3. Let users perceive stability
        4. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      5. When Users Arrive at the Target, Make Success Obvious
        1. Confirm that the link worked
        2. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
      6. Confirm the Location by Showing the Position of This Informative Object in the Hierarchy
        1. You are here
        2. Leave a trail of breadcrumbs
        3. Highlight the page within a table of contents
        4. Headers help
        5. EXAMPLES
          1. Before
          2. After
        6. Express your own idea on:
        7. Subscribe:
        8. Unsubscribe:
        9. Visit:
  9. 3. Fine-tune Your Style for the Genres
    1. 11. Writing in a Genre
      1. Why Genres Matter
        1. A genre is born as a response to an audience's questions, needs, wishes, fantasies
        2. A genre has a conventional structure
        3. A genre has an agreed-upon tone
        4. A genre demands that you take on a conventional persona
        5. Adapt the genre to the forum
        6. Go gonzo once in a while
        7. Express your own idea on:
        8. Subscribe:
        9. Unsubscribe:
        10. Visit:
    2. 12. Creating Customer Assistance That Actually Helps
      1. Where Can I Get the Answers to My Questions?
        1. Assistance gets buried
        2. The genres of customer assistance
      2. Embedded Assistance—Labels, Tips, and Clues
        1. Put the assistance where people need it
        2. Make information part of the interface
        3. Label those fields
        4. Explain why you want the information
        5. Put embarrassing information where they need it
        6. Give examples, even on search forms
      3. Case Study: Embedded Assistance at Shop.Microsoft.com
      4. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
        1. Write the questions in the persona of the guest
        2. Create troubleshooting sections
        3. Give steps
        4. Handle branching with bullets
        5. Go ahead, repeat yourself
        6. Can steps be links?
        7. Show pictures
        8. Find out if you've answered the question
        9. Keep growing the FAQ
      5. Case Study: FAQs at AltaVista
      6. Help
        1. Question: “How do I?” Answer: Procedure
        2. Question: “What's that?”Answer: Reference
        3. Question: “What's the big idea?”Answer: Concept
        4. Question: “What does this term mean?”Answer: Definition
      7. Case Study: Help at eBay
      8. Privacy Policy
        1. Go ahead, reassure me
        2. Reward me for exposing myself
        3. Let me out
        4. Write a privacy policy that people can understand
        5. Explain security before and during the transaction
      9. Case Study: Privacy Policy at VeriSign
      10. E-mail Responses to Customers
        1. Provide detailed contacts with names and pictures, not faceless forms
        2. Set up guidelines for responses
        3. Make the subject line mean something
        4. Start off recognizing what they said
        5. Deliberately express sympathy and interest
        6. Encourage your feminine side
        7. Drop in boilerplate answers to common questions
        8. Add a signature block
        9. Iron out the wrinkles
        10. Don't send attachments
      11. Case Study: E-mail Responses from Amazon.com
        1. Express your own idea on:
        2. Subscribe:
        3. Unsubscribe:
        4. Visit:
    3. 13. Persuading Niche Markets, Individuals, and the Press
      1. Web Marketing Copy
        1. Straight talk
        2. Earnest, honest—can this be marketing?
        3. Go gonzo
        4. Mission 'shmission, who's got the ax?
        5. Product information
        6. Architectural note:organize around activities first
      2. Case Study: Web Marketing Copy at mySimon
      3. News Releases
        1. Put the gist of the story into the subject line and headline
        2. Opening
        3. Follow-up and quotes
        4. The about section
        5. Contact info
        6. Set up a Web press center that gives reporters what they want
      4. Case Study:News Center and Releases at Reflect.com
        1. Express your own idea on:
        2. Subscribe:
        3. Unsubscribe:
        4. Visit:
    4. 14. Making News That Fits
      1. News Articles
        1. You're a filter
        2. Why should I bother reading your piece?
        3. Use loaded terms to get hits
        4. How much can you leave out?
        5. Quotes and lifts
        6. Partnering with the devil
        7. Include images, sounds, and video
        8. Links are part of the story
        9. Bring together a whole set of stories
      2. Case Study: News Articles at Wired News
      3. E-mail Newsletters
        1. Let subscribers choose you
        2. Ideas + Links = Experience
        3. Visionaries only
        4. Your own voice, please
        5. Their voices, too
        6. Focus on only a few offers
        7. Make Web pages support the newsletter
        8. Respond
      4. Case Study: E-mail Newsletter from the Titanic Deck Chair Rearrangement Corporation
      5. Weblogs
        1. Record whatever whenever
        2. Growing like a weed
        3. Linklist or junkpile
        4. Making sense
        5. Counter the conglomerates
        6. Get validation from incoming links
      6. Case Study: Weblog by Dave Winer
        1. Express your own idea on:
        2. Subscribe:
        3. Unsubscribe:
        4. Visit:
    5. 15. Entertaining People Who Like to Read
      1. Webzine Articles
        1. Webzines often violate reasonable rules
        2. Get intense, expressing yourself
        3. Reveal your anger, lust, envy, greed, gluttony, jealousy, and zits
        4. Provoke argument and discussion
        5. Organize strenuously and intellectually with subheads
        6. Provide links that add to the story
        7. Fit within the word count, or die
        8. Follow the template, so the editor doesn't have to clean up after you
      2. Pitching a Webzine
        1. Studying a Webzine
        2. How to write a query to the editor in an e-mail message
        3. A query is a job of writing
        4. Style
        5. Length
        6. What about clips?
        7. What to discuss with an editor who wants your story
      3. Case Study: Webzine Articles at Slate
        1. Express your own idea on:
        2. Subscribe:
        3. Unsubscribe:
        4. Visit:
    6. 16. Getting a Job
      1. Web Resume
        1. A resume answers the questions of the person who screens resumes
        2. Adapt your style to speed up access to answers
        3. Prepare four versions
        4. Make the master copy
        5. FAQ about the master resume
        6. Develop a list of potential references
        7. Turn the master resume into a Web resume
        8. Publish your Web resume
        9. Link back
      2. E-mail Resume
        1. Use job boards with restraint
        2. Don't send your resume as an attachment
        3. Format for the machine
        4. Get ready to go public
        5. Post with restraint
        6. Reuse the text resume as a scannable paper resume
        7. Express your own idea on:
        8. Subscribe:
        9. Unsubscribe:
        10. Visit:
  10. 4. Become a Pro
    1. 17. So You Wannabe a Web Writer or Editor
      1. Where Web Writers and Editors Come From
        1. The pay
        2. FAQ on life as a professional Web writer
        3. FAQ on life as a professional Web editor
      2. Web Editing—The Basics
        1. Edit visually
        2. Make the text consistent
        3. Think globally, act locally
        4. Take this test to see if you're up for the challenge
        5. A rose by any other name…
      3. The Debate: Freelance Gigs vs a Staff Job
        1. The pluses of working on staff
        2. The minuses of working on staff
        3. The pluses of being a freelancer
        4. The minuses of being a freelancer
      4. Freelance Markets for Web Writers and Editors
        1. E-mail newsletters
        2. General news sites
        3. Trade sites
        4. Popular health and science
        5. Marketing communication and public relations
        6. Travel
        7. Subscription sites
        8. E-commerce sites
        9. Syndication
        10. Zines
        11. Other sources for work
        12. Express your own idea on:
        13. Subscribe:
        14. Unsubscribe:
        15. Visit:
  11. 5. Backup
    1. 18. Writerly Sites
    2. 19. If You Like to Read
      1. Bibliography
        1. Bibliography