Letting Go of the Words

Writing Web Content that Works


  • Janice (Ginny) Redish, President of Redish and Associates, Inc., Bethesda, MD, USA, acclaimed author, instructor, and consultant

Web site design and development continues to become more sophisticated. An important part of this maturity originates with well-laid-out and well-written content. Ginny Redish is a world-renowned expert on information design and how to produce clear writing in plain language for the web. All of the invaluable information that she shared in the first edition is included with numerous new examples. New information on content strategy for web sites, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media make this once again the only book you need to own to optimize your writing for the web.
View full description


For anyone who writes for the web or does usability testing on web sites, including web designers, information designers, information architects, content managers, technical writers, usability engineers, web application and forms designers.


Book information

  • Published: August 2012
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-385930-3


"For anyone who works in e-learning, I strongly recommend Letting Go of the Words. It will transform how you communicate online. After reading it, the bad practices will leap off the page." -e.learning age, Nov 2014

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Content! Content! Content!

People come for the content

Content = conversation

Web = phone, not file cabinet

Online, people skim and scan

People do read online - sometimes

People don't read more because...

Writing well = having successful conversations

Three case studies

Case Study 1-1 Conversing well with words

Case Study 1-2 Conversing well with few words

Case Study 1-3 Revising web words

Summarizing Chapter 1

Chapter 2 Planning: Purposes, Personas, Conversations

Why? Know what you want the site to achieve

Who? What's the conversation?

Breathing life into your data with personas

Breathing life into your data with scenarios

Summarizing Chapter 2

Interlude 1: Content Strategy

Why is content strategy so important?

What is content strategy?

What does content strategy cover?

Who does content strategy?

Seven steps to carry out a content strategy

Chapter 3 Designing for Easy Use

Who should read this chapter - and why?

Integrate content and design from the beginning

Build in flexibility for universal usability




Putting it all together: A case study

Case Study 3-1 Revising a poorly designed web page

Summarizing Chapter 3

Chapter 4 Starting Well: Home Pages

Home pages - content-rich with few words

1. Be findable through search engines

2. Identify the site

3. Set the site's tone and personality

4. Help people get a sense of what the site is all about

5. Continue the conversation quickly

6. Send each person on the right way

Summarizing Chapter 4

Chapter 5 Getting There: Pathway Pages

1. Site visitors hunt first

2. People don't want to read while hunting

3. A pathway page is like a table of contents

4. Sometimes, short descriptions help

5. Three clicks is a myth

6. Many people choose the first option

Summarizing Chapter 5

Chapter 6 Breaking up and Organizing Content

1. Think "information," not "document"

2. Divide your content thoughtfully

3. Consider how much to put on one web page

4. Use PDFs sparingly and only for good reasons

Summarizing Chapter 6

Chapter 7 Focusing on Conversations and Key Messages

Seven guidelines for focusing on conversations and key messages

1. Give people only what they need

2. Cut! Cut! Cut! And cut again!

3. Think "bite, snack, meal"

4. Start with your key message

5. Layer information

6. Break down walls of words

7. Plan to share and engage through social media

Summarizing Chapter 7

Interlude 2: Finding Marketing Moments

Marketing on the web is different: Pull not push

Join the site visitor’s conversation

Find the right marketing moments

Don't miss good marketing moments

Never stop the conversation

Chapter 8 Announcing Your Topic With a Clear Headline

Seven guidelines for headlines that work well

Summarizing Chapter 8

Chapter 9 Including Useful Headings

Good headings help readers in many ways

Thinking about headings also helps authors

Eleven guidelines for writing useful headings

Summarizing Chapter 9

Interlude 3 The New Life of Press Releases

The old life of press releases

The new life of press releases

How do people use press releases on the web?

What should we do?

Does it make a difference?

Chapter 10 Tuning up Your Sentences

Ten guidelines for tuning up your sentences

Summarizing Chapter 10

Chapter 11 Using Lists and Tables

Six guidelines for useful lists

Lists and tables: What's the difference?

Six guidelines for useful tables

Summarizing Chapter 11

Interlude 4 Legal Information Can Be Clear

Accurate, sufficient, clear - You can have all three

Avoid archaic legal language

Avoid technical jargon

Use site visitors’ words in headings

Follow the rest of this book, too

Case Study 4-1 Putting it all together

Chapter 12 Writing Meaningful Links

Seven guidelines for writing meaningful links

Summarizing Chapter 12

Chapter 13 Using Illustrations Effectively

Five purposes that illustrations can serve

Seven guidelines for using illustrations effectively

Summarizing Chapter 13

Chapter 14 Getting from Draft to Final

Read, edit, revise, proofread your own work

Share drafts with colleagues

Walk your personas through their conversations

Let editors help you

Negotiate successful reviews (and edits)

Summarizing Chapter 14

Interlude 5 Creating an Organic Style Guide

Use a style guide for consistency

Use a style guide to remind people

Don’t reinvent

Appoint an owner

Get management support

Make it easy to create, to find, and to use

Chapter 15 Test! Test! Test!

Why do usability testing?

What’s needed for usability testing

What’s not needed for usability testing

How do we do a usability test?

What variations might we consider?

Why not just do focus groups?

A final point: Test the content!!