Thursday, June 17, 2010

40 web-writing lessons I learned from tech-writing

Most web writers come from different backgrounds. They may have trained in marketing, or journalism, or English literature, or a hundred other things. We each bring our unique experiences, passions, and skills to the way we communicate online. I consider myself very lucky to have a background in technical communications.

Here are some of the things that I learned as a tech-writer that help make me a really great web-writer.

1. Think in 3D. Consider access and departure points.
2. Consider how the information will be used.
3. Predict frustration points and eliminate them.
4. Write clearly.
5. Write consistently.
6. Use short sentences.
7. “Show”, rather than “tell”.
8. Provide context up front.
9. Use graphics and illustrations.
10. Follow rules and industry standards.
11. Break the rules when it helps you to communicate better.
12. Consider ways to help your audience find what they need.
13. Less is more. Except when it’s not enough. Learn the difference.
14. Embrace technology. You need it, so you need to understand it.
15. Know your audience.
16. Know your business drivers.
17. Have clear communication goals.
18. Make sure your goals focus on your audience.
19. Find ways to test your product’s success.
20. Be creative through the constraints.
21. Learn from other disciplines.
22. Break information into small chunks.
23. Think about different ways the chunks can fit together.
24. Layer information.
25. Use lists and tables.
26. Don’t vary word choices just to add variety.
27. Write descriptive headings.
28. Make sure the information hierarchy is visually obvious.
29. Design your information.
30. Learn how and when to use different information design techniques.
31. Write meaningful links.
32. Review and edit everything before it’s published.
33. If in doubt, write for a global audience.
34. Become best friends with your dictionary and style-guide.
35. Hone your project management skills.
36. Never sacrifice quality.
37. Deliver to deadline. Even if it’s not perfect.
38. Edit ruthlessly.
39. Polish your writing and editing skills. Never stop.
40. Find a great mentor, if you can. Thanks, Jerome!

Please add to this list, or create your own using your past experiences!

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