COVID-19 Update: We are currently shipping orders daily. However, due to transit disruptions in some geographies, deliveries may be delayed. To provide all customers with timely access to content, we are offering 50% off Science and Technology Print & eBook bundle options. Terms & conditions.
Letting Go of the Words - 2nd Edition - ISBN: 9780123859303, 9780123859310

Letting Go of the Words

2nd Edition

Writing Web Content that Works

Author: Janice (Ginny) Redish
Paperback ISBN: 9780123859303
eBook ISBN: 9780123859310
Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
Published Date: 14th August 2012
Page Count: 368
Sales tax will be calculated at check-out Price includes VAT/GST
Price includes VAT/GST

Institutional Subscription

Secure Checkout

Personal information is secured with SSL technology.

Free Shipping

Free global shipping
No minimum order.

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


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.


No. of pages:
© Morgan Kaufmann 2012
14th August 2012
Morgan Kaufmann
Paperback ISBN:
eBook ISBN:


"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

Ratings and Reviews

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

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