SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] Writing for the Web
Re: [Sigia-l] Writing for the Web
From: Richard Law (rlaw_at_cisco.com)
Date: Mon Oct 27 2003 - 10:59:49 EST
Thanks for your thoughtful feedback.
Yes (Paul) my question was pretty broad in scope, and that's because our
task is huge. We will define writing guidelines for content from marketing
(pre sales) to technical support (post sales), as well as, for the UI. We're
aware that all these content types may require a different approach, because
they have different goals in communicating to readers (users).
So far, there have been many well thought out suggestions to my query. I
REALLY appreciate everyone's feedback! Keep it coming if there are more
considerations and reference URLs people can suggest.
On 10/24/03 4:30 PM, "Paul Ford" <ford_at_ftrain.com> wrote:
> Richard Law <rlaw_at_cisco.com> wrote:
>> Hi All,
>> I'm starting to develop a series of guidelines for writing online
>> content. I'm curious to know what best practices others recommend for
>> writing for the web, as well as, repurposing (editing) offline content
>> (e.g., marketing colateral, white papers, etc.) for use online.
> The scope of your question makes it very hard to come up with a simple
> answer. It's much as if you'd asked for the "best practices others
> recommend for designing for the web."
> There are dozens of decisions that professional editors and authors
> consider before undertaking any content task, regarding style, tone,
> audience, length, marketing goals (if appropriate), and linking
> strategy. The overall site structure makes a difference, as well: is a
> site structured in a hierarchy, or loosely joined by links? How much
> do we need to educate our readers? Is the site publishing a large
> amount of time-sensitive content, or is it a permanent repository? The
> editorial strategy you develop should answer these questions.
> I once wrote for a site that was intended for small business
> owners. All the writing was done in a journalistic style, and when new
> ideas were presented in an article they were always summarized. This
> sort of writing is dramatically different than working on a policy
> manual that is posted to an intranet, or creatng a set of technical
> documentation, where the journalistic new-idea-summarizing can be
> eliminated, and replaced by a link of the "see the 'System
> Configuration' page" sort. A product catalog requires a totally
> different kind of writing still, as does a tutorial. The challenge
> facing people in content strategy is in finding ways to keep all the
> different kinds of copy that appear on the web, from nav bars, to
> marketing, to technical docs, consistent. It's an almost impossible
> task unless everyone involved in creating content for a given web site
> is willing to agree to the standards involved, and an editorial review
> strategy is firmly in place. Creating an site-wide lexicon is one
> thing, but enforcing it is another.
> The dynamics of your CMS can also determine style: weblogs often have
> a quite different rhetorical approach in contrast to wikis, for
> instance, and some of that difference can be explained by the
> difference in the tools used to create, edit, and categorize
> content. Sometimes it is best to work out from what your CMS allows,
> and its approach to structuring a site, and develop your approach
> accordingly. Deployment is also an issue. Writing in a structured XML
> format like DocBook allows you to target the web, print, HTML help,
> etc, but imposes structuring requirements on your content which are
> easier to address at the outset of any writing/revision job than after
> the fact, and the more you can build a knowledge of those structuring
> requirements into your style guide, the easier it is on your writers.
> One good place to see a well-evolved, community-developed web content
> base that is often a pleasure to read is http://wikipedia.org .
> WikiPedia has an editorial style guide at:
> which in turn has some useful links at the bottom.
> Personally, I am a big fan of FAQs, which force the writer to
> anticipate the needs of readers, and are easy to write and maintain. A
> well-structured, searchable FAQ, where each question links to a
> relevant document, often provides an easy path into a very large and
> complex set of documents around a given topic, in a form that readers
> intuitively understand. Sometimes, starting with an FAQ provides
> insight into how a site should be structured and where resources
> should be allocated for the creation of new content; after all, you
> want to give your readers what they want, and answering the questions
> they already have is the best way to do so.
> Best Wishes,
> Paul Ford
> words: http://ftrain.com // work: http://copywire.com
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