Web Writing That Works!

           A Project of
           The Communication Circle

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Site Map

Not really a map.  More of an outline.

Here are the major sections of our site.  We walk through each item on the main menu, showing you what lies underneath.

We've excluded some Easter eggs...extras that appear only on certain pages, like e-books we give away, or bonus checklists.

But if you want to see the basic structure of our content, here it is!



1.  Trim that text!
1a. Cut any paper-based text by 50%.

1b. Use short words.

1c. Make some sentences short.

1d. Make most paragraphs short.

1e. Delete marketing fluff.

1f. Move vital but tangential or supplemental material.

1g. Convert repeating categories of information into tables.

1h. Beware of cutting so far that you make the text ambiguous.

2.  Make text scannable

2a. Create a meaningful title.

2b. Insert meaningful headlines and subheads.

2c. Highlight keywords and phrases--and links.

2d. Turn any list into a bulleted or numbered list.

3.  Cook up hot links

3a. Make clear what the user will get from the link.

3b. Within a sentence, make the link the emphatic element.

3c. Shift focus from the links or linked-to documents to the subject.

3d. Provide depth and breadth through plentiful links to related information within your site.

3e. Establish credibility by offering outbound links.

3f. Make meta information public.

3g. Write URLs that humans can read.

3h. Make links accessible.

3i. Tell people about a media object before they download.

3j. Announce the new with special links.

3k. Write meta-tags to have your pages found.

4.  Write chunky paragraphs

4a.  Design each paragraph around one idea.

4b. Put the idea of the paragraph first.

4c. If you must include context, put that first.

4d. Put key conclusions, ideas, news, at the start of the article.

5.  Reduce cognitive burdens

5a. Reduce the number of clauses per sentence.

5b. Blow up nominalizations and noun trains.

5c. Watch out for ambiguous phrases a user might have to debate.

5d. Surface the agent and action, so users don't have to guess.

5e. Make a positive statement.

5f. Reduce scrolling.

5g. Let users print or save the entire document at once.

6.  Make meaningful menus

6a. Think of a heading as an object you reuse many times.

6b. Write each menu so it offers a meaningful structure.

6c. Offer multiple routes to the same information.

6d. Write and display several levels at once.

6e. When users arrive at the target, make it obvious.

6f. Confirm the location by showing its position in the hierarchy.


Talk like a human being!

Probe your audiences--gently

Listen before you talk

What info consumers want from your text

Do you know who you are talking to?

Analyze their tasks

Lump people together into small groups

Create personas!

Customize, then personalize

Why personalize?

Create custom content for each group

Build a unified profile

Use rules or inferences to match individuals & content

Let individuals organize content their way

Consider your aims, honestly.

Develop an attitude!

Cut through anonymity

Let's talk persona to persona

Goodbye documents, hello objects!

Moving content from paper to the web!

The problems with massive content

Mark up that text!

Modeling informative objects

What is an informative object?

Define each object

Define entities and other alien creatures

Describe what you create--with metadata

Create a formal model

Join the enterprise-wide data model

Benefits of an object-oriented approach to content.

Outlining electronically

What electronic outlining tools can do for you

How outlining went electronic

How going electronic changes our idea of outlining

How electronic outlining aids collaboration

A new model of outlining: what a difference the medium makes!

A bibliography on outlining

Web Text = Content + Interface

Your words are virtually there

Your words look fuzzy

Your words appear and disappear in a moment

Some of your words are just signposts

When your text becomes the interface

Text as content

Text as interface element

Working together

Text = Content + Interface

Warm, warmer, hot!


The point of attention

Simplicity saves attention

Writing means paying attention


Writing within a genre

A genre responds to an audience

A genre has a conventional structure

A genre has an agreed-upon tone

A genre demands that you take on a conventional persona

Adapt the genre to the forum

Go gonzo once in a while

How to write FAQs that really answer customer questions

Write questions in the persona of the guest

Put instructions in numbered steps

Handle branching with bullets

Go ahead, repeat yourself

Show pictures

Find out if you have answered the question

Keep growing the FAQ

Create troubleshooting sections

Embedding your customer assistance: how to write labels, tips, and clues

Put the assistance where people need it

Label those fields

Put embarrassing information where they need it

Give more examples

Case study: Shop.Microsoft.com

How to organize step-by-step procedures

The title is a menu item

Intros are optional

Put instructions into discrete steps

Organize explanations to follow the train of thought

Full model of a procedure

A group of procedures can be a reusable object

Build a process out of a sequence of procedures

Build a set of processes

Let users move down the scale of action

Articulate the strategic decision

How to articulate concepts

Explain the concept modularly

Define classes hierarchically

Create expanded definitions

How to write a privacy policy--if you must

Go ahead, reassure me

Reward me for exposing myself to danger

Let me out

Write a privacy policy that people can understand

Explain security before and during the transaction

Example: Privacy Policy at VeriSign

How to answer customer email

Provide detailed contacts with names and pictures, not faceless forms

Set up guidelines for responses

Make the subject line mean something

Start off recognizing what they said

Encourage your feminine side

Drop in boilerplate answers to common questions

Add a signature block

Case study in e-response: Amazon. com


Mount Fuji: A Conversation with Hokusai

Lao Tse: On the Nature of the Way


Writing and editing for your customers!

Evaluating your content

Coaching your writers

Training your writers

Increasing your Return on Information (ROInfo)

Documenting your  database

Supporting groups of writers and editors


Web writing that works

The architecture of content

Creating popular web content

Content management

XML for the rest of us

Introduction to technical communication



About our book, Hot Text

Reviews and comments on Hot Text

Editions of Hot Text

Media appearances


Join the spammers in random haiku

Who consumes our information, anyway?

We're all buying more content online

Blogging gets the attention of PR

Is your site getting out of date?

Tog on the magic of interface design

On electronic outlining

What's a blog?

Google tells you how many searches you've done today


Hurray for FAQs

Database Style

Set Links Free, BT

If Your Guidelines Fail, Try Entrapment!

Big Blue Guidelines

Problems? In Editing for the Web?

Get Messy, to Join the Conversation

Make Startups Justify Themselves

Personalizing Puts Service at Core


Writerly Sites

Advice on web writing and editing

Background on blogging

Buzz, news, trends

Finding a job as a web writer or editor

Marketing copy and PR

Online journalism

Viral ideas

Content management

Info architecture and interface design





Heuristic Online Text (H.O.T.) Evaluations

1. Brevity

2. Scannability

3. Hot Links

4. Marketing Copy

5. Cognitive Burdens

6. Menus

Take a Position

1. Brevity

2. Scannability

3. Hot Links

4. Chunkiness

5. Cognitive Burdens

6. Menus

So you wannabe a web writer or editor

Where web writers and editors come from

FAQ on life as a professional Web writer

FAQ on life as a professional Web editor

Web editing--the basics

The debate--freelance gigs vs a staff job

About Us


Lisa Price

Jonathan Price

Client List

By client name, alphabetically

By type of service

Chronologically by date

In reverse chronological order


Articles for magazines and web sites

Scholarly and professional articles



Contact us

Site Map (You are here!)



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Web Writing that Works!
  2004 Jonathan and Lisa Price
The Communication Circle
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