Letting Go of the Words book cover

Letting Go of the Words

Writing Web Content that Works

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.

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.

Paperback, 368 Pages

Published: August 2012

Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann

ISBN: 978-0-12-385930-3


  • "This is a must-have book for anyone associated with preparing web copy… It is not a web developer’s technical manual, but rather assists users in preparing an effective message for website visitors… I recommend this truly complete and informative book."--ComputingReviews.com, May 23, 2013

    "This comprehensive volume on the language of web design provides practical advice for developers on the effective use of text and language in the creation of highly usable websites."--Reference and Research Book News, February 2013

    Praise from the first edition:

    "Redish has done her homework and created a thorough overview of the issues in writing for the Web. Ironically, I must recommend that you read her every word so that you can find out why your customers won't read very many words on your website -- and what to do about it."--Jakob Nielsen, Principal, Nielsen Norman Group
    “There are at least twelve billion web pages out there. Twelve billion voices talking, but saying mostly nothing. If just 1% of those pages followed Ginny’s practical, clear advice, the world would be a better place. Fortunately, you can follow her advice for 100% of your own site’s pages, so pick up a copy of Letting Go of the Words and start communicating effectively today.”--Lou Rosenfeld, co-author, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web
    "If you’re looking for a concise, comprehensive, and visual guide containing hundreds of practical online writing tips for personal branding success will give you everything needed to take your writing to the next level in Ginny Redish’s Letting Go of the Words…This could be the most important Holiday Gift book you give-or receive-this year."--Personal Branding Blog, November 2012
    "If you only read one book about online writing and design, get Ginny Redish’s Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works. It’s a book that can do more good for more websites than any other book I can recommend at this time…You read, then you look. You read a little more, and you look again. Suddenly, it all makes sense!"--Published and Profitable, December 2012


  • 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!!


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