Letting Go of the Words

Letting Go of the Words

Writing Web Content that Works

2nd Edition - August 14, 2012

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  • Author: Janice (Ginny) Redish
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780123859303
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123859310

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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.

Key Features

  • New material on content strategy, search engine optimization, and social media
  • Lots of new and updated examples
  • More emphasis on new hardware like tablets, iPads, and iPhones


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.

Table of Contents

  • Praise for Letting Go of the Words




    Introducing Letting Go of the Words

    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

    Summarizing Chapter 1

    2. Planning

    Why? Know what you want 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

    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

    Summarizing Chapter 3

    4. Starting Well

    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

    5. Getting There

    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

    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

    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

    8. Announcing Your Topic with a Clear Headline

    Seven guidelines for headlines that work well

    1 Use your site visitors’ words

    2 Be clear instead of cute

    3 Think about your global audience

    4 Try for a medium length (about eight words)

    5 Use a statement, question, or call to action

    6 Combine labels (nouns) with more information

    7 Add a short description if people need it

    Summarizing Chapter 8

    9. Including Useful Headings

    Good headings help readers in many ways

    Thinking about headings also helps authors

    Eleven guidelines for writing useful headings

    1 Don’t slap headings into old content

    2 Start by outlining

    3 Choose a good heading style: Questions, statements, verb phrases

    4 Use nouns and noun phrases sparingly

    5 Put your site visitors’ wordsin the headings

    6 Exploit the power of parallelism

    7 Use only a few levels of headings

    8 Distinguish headings from text

    9 Make each level of heading clear

    10 Help people jump to content within a web page

    11 Evaluate! Read the 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?

    10. Tuning up Your Sentences

    Ten Guidelines for Tuning up Your Sentences

    1 Talk to your site visitors – Use “you”

    2 Use “I” and “we”

    3 Write in the active voice (most of the time)

    4 Write short, simple sentences

    5 Cut unnecessary words

    6 Give extra information its own place

    7 Keep paragraphs short

    8 Start with the context

    9 Put the action in the verb

    10 Use your site visitors’ words

    Summarizing Chapter 10

    11. Using Lists and Tables

    Six guidelines for useful lists

    1 Use bulleted lists for items or options

    2 Match bullets to your site’s personality

    3 Use numbered lists for instructions

    4 Keep most lists short

    5 Try to start list items the same way

    6 Format lists well

    Lists and tables: What’s the difference?

    Six guidelines for useful tables

    1 Use tables for a set of “if, then” sentences

    2 Use tables to compare numbers

    3 Think tables = answers to questions

    4 Think carefully about the first column

    5 Keep tables simple

    6 Format tables well

    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

    12. Writing Meaningful Links

    Seven guidelines for writing meaningful links

    1 Don’t make new program or product names links by themselves

    2 Think ahead: Launch and land on the same name

    3 For actions, start with a verb

    4 Make the link meaningful – Not Click here or just More

    5 Don’t embed links (for most content)

    6 Make bullets with links active, too

    7 Make unvisited and visited links obvious

    Summarizing Chapter 12

    13. Using Illustrations Effectively

    Five purposes that illustrations can serve

    Seven guidelines for using illustrations effectively

    1 Don’t make people wonder what or why

    2 Choose an appropriate size

    3 Show diversity

    4 Don’t make content look like ads

    5 Don’t annoy people with blinking, rolling, waving, or wandering text or pictures

    6 Use animation only where it helps

    7 Make illustrations accessible

    Summarizing Chapter 13

    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

    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!!

    For More Information – A Bibliography

    Subject Index

    Index of Web Sites Shown as Examples

    About Ginny Redish

Product details

  • No. of pages: 368
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Morgan Kaufmann 2012
  • Published: August 14, 2012
  • Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780123859303
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123859310

About the Author

Janice (Ginny) Redish

Janice (Ginny) Redish
Janice (Ginny) Redish has been helping clients and colleagues communicate clearly for more than 20 years. For the past ten years, her focus has been helping people create usable and useful web sites.

A linguist by training, Ginny is passionate about understanding how people think, how people read, how people use web sites - and helping clients write web content that meets web users' needs in the ways in which they work.

Ginny loves to teach and mentor - and to practice what she preaches. She turns research into practical guidelines that her clients and students can apply immediately to their web sites.

Ginny's earlier books received rave reviews for being easy to read and easy to use, as well as comprehensive and full of great advice. She is co-author of two classic books on usability:

* A Practical Guide to Usability Testing (with Joseph Dumas)

* User and Task Analysis for Interface Design (with JoAnn Hackos)

She is also the author of the section on writing on www.usability.gov.

Ginny's work and leadership in the usability and plain language communities have earned her numerous awards, including the Rigo Award from the ACM Special Interest Group on the Design of Communication and the Alfred N. Goldsmith Award from the IEEE Professional Communication Society.

Ginny is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication and a past member of the Board of Directors of both the Society for Technical Communication and the Usability Professionals' Association.

Affiliations and Expertise

President of Redish and Associates, Inc., Bethesda, MD, USA, acclaimed author, instructor, and consultant

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