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Encyclopediac Help



2. Taking a Position on Brevity

Please take a position on one of the following passages or sites. How well does the passage or site achieve the goal of brevity?

Encyclopediac Help

Encyclo 2004 lets you save information from the encyclopedia through your Encyclo Explorer notes, or by copying and pasting. Always remember to cite Encyclo 2004 as the source when you use this material in your work. Copying and pasting is easy. You must first display the article. Then select the text you want to capture. Just click at the start, and drag through that passage. Choose Copy on the Edit menu, and as a result you will have the text in your clipboard, the part of your computer that keeps track of material you have copied. Open an Encyclo Explorer note, or open your word processing document, or any other document into which you can paste text. Then choose Paste on the Edit menu. Your text appears there. Remember to add a citation of Encyclo 2004, as your source. If you want to move the text right into an Encyclo Explorer note, then display the article, and select the text, as described above, and then click the Note icon (it looks like a notecard). To see your note, choose Go to Explorer, and then click the right arrow icon to go through the notes. The notes appear in the order you have captured them, so your last text will appear as the last note. When you want to use the notes in another application, such as a word-processing program, choose Export on the File menu. In the Export dialog, choose ASCII text, to export plain text, or, if you want to create a web page, choose HTML. All of the text of your notes, and any images you have placed in the notes, will be exported to the web page. If you choose ASCII, you only get the text of your notes. Then pick a folder in which you want this exported content to appear, give the file a name, and click OK. Your exported content appears in that directory.

Yale on the dangers of cutting too much:

The Yale Medical School site offers lots of advice to people creating Web pages at http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual, in the section devoted to Editorial Style. Lynch and Horton, the authors, urge concision but warn against shortening text too much because "There’s enough dumb stuff on the Web already."

  • How would you describe their prose style?
  • Do you think they expect you to read all their advice, or even a single Web page of their recommendations, online?
  • Does their own prose work for you when you read it on the screen? Could it be improved if they wrote more briefly?

Give us enough snippets and examples to understand why you take the position you do.

Slate …When users want more than a blank:

Brevity matters—but only when the user wants information. Writing short can help your users pick up facts, ideas, instructions, trouble-shooting advice, recommendations, and data in tables. But users also go to the Internet to be entertained, inspired, aroused, even inflamed.

Webzines, hobbyist sites, marketing pages appeal to the imagination. And when looking for an emotional buzz, users seem to prefer a looser, more subtly shaded, intimate, even passionate prose. They want to get an impression of the writer—a sense of personality—rather than "seeing through" the prose to the facts beneath.

Consider several articles (preferably by one person) on Microsoft’s webzine, Slate at http://www.slate.com/

  • How would you characterize the style of these pieces? (Quote enough for us to see what you mean).
  • Is this style working for you, when you browse on screen? When you read for meaning on screen? Tell us what you are after, when you read these pieces. For instance, in what way are your aims different than when you go to a corporate site to find a solution to your software problem?
  • Given these purposes, do you find the Slate prose style reasonably easy to read on the screen? Or would you prefer to print the pieces out and read them on paper?

How to trim your 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.


Taking a Position on Brevity

Heuristic Online Text (HOT) Evaluation for Brevity




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