What do we learn from this case study

Think about these points as you write your web content:

• Put a full date on every web page. Include the year. And, by the way, write the date with the month spelled out. That's the best way to avoid misunderstandings because people in different countries read dates differently. As you may know, 5/1/2007 is May 1, 2007, in the United States and January 5, 2007, in much of the rest of the world.

• Think about the life span of the web page. If the web page has information that will not be needed after a certain date, revisit it to update it when that information is no longer needed.

• In fact, have a maintenance schedule for all your web pages.

• Think about "holes" in the information. What questions will people have that the information does not answer? Get the information. You'll avoid phone calls if you do.

• Over time, turn press releases into pages of web information, if that information is still needed.

• Help people see very quickly if they need the information on the page. Don't make people read a lot only to find out that what they read is not for them. Try to state exceptions first - in a positive way. Don't start with "Except for..." That's negative. You can always find a positive way to help people find the information that's right for them.

SUMMARIZING CHAPTER 8

Here are key messages from Chapter 8:

• Writing informally is not "dumbing down"!

• Talk to your site visitors.

- Be consistent; don't mix nouns and "you" when talking about the same person.

- Use appropriate nouns to talk about others.

- Use the imperative in instructions.

- Use "you" rather than "he or she."

• Show that you are a person and that your organization includes people.

- If you are writing your own articles, "I" is fine.

- Organizations should use "we" throughout the site.

- Sometimes, it's okay to talk about the organization by name.

- For questions and answers, use "I" and "you" for the site visitor, "we" for the organization.

• Write simple, short, straightforward sentences.

- Very short sentences are okay, too.

- Fragments may also work.

- Even in very serious writing, busy web users need sentences they can understand easily.

• Cut unnecessary words.

• Give extra information its own place.

• Keep paragraphs short.

- On the web, a one-sentence paragraph is fine.

- Lists and tables may be better than paragraphs.

• Start with the context - first things first, second things second.

• Put the action in the verbs, not the nouns.

- We all read the simple, short, common words faster.

- Consider your broad web audience.

• Apply all the guidelines together.

• When you update pages, revise them to be better writing for the web.

• When you make web pages clearer, you may realize that people have questions the page does not answer.

Using Lists and Tables

A great way to let go of the words without losing essential meaning is to use lists and tables. Lists put active space around each item so that people can skim through the information. Tables take away words that aren't necessary and let people easily scan for what they need.

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