Web Writing That Works!

           A Project of
           The Communication Circle

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Writing within a genre

How to write FAQs that really answer customer questions

Embedding your customer assistance: how to write labels, tips, and clues

How to organize step-by-step procedures

How to articulate concepts

How to write a privacy policy--if you must

How to write marketing copy

Quick! Issue an email press release

How to answer customer email


Writing for the Web often means fitting into standard patterns, such as the FAQ, the product description, the tight little labels on fields that customers must fill out when checking out.

Professional writers have always worked within standard models, genres such as the newspaper article, the opinion piece, the press release. 

But to accommodate content management software, and other applications that manipulate the content for particular audiences, media, and situations, we have to understand and write within structures that are more tightly regulated, and more formally defined.

Reading an XML Document Type Definition (DTD) or schema, following a template, working within an authoring tool that imposes these rules on us, from paragraph to paragraph, as we write, we are becoming more aware of structure than ever before. 

We are learning to read pattern languages, so that we can identify where new information goes, in the standard structure, dropping new facts into the right slots.

Writing used to be more about style and personality than structure. 

Now, addressing an audience of robots, spiders, applets, servers, and content management applications, as well, as, oh yes, people, we are more constrained by the need to follow a standard model with absolute consistency, for fear of confusing the software.  Humans can handle inconsistency, but programs cannot. Meet your new reader: a few lines of code.

But even people appreciate a consistent, well-organized pattern. 

Once they read one example of a genre, they know what to expect; if your other pages follow that pattern, people can grasp the content more quickly, and remember it better. 

Diagnosing structure is one way we learn, and when people know what structure you are going to follow, they absorb the information better than if they are struggling through uncertain ground.

Resources on other patterns

Persuading niche markets, individuals, and the press (Hot Text module on marketing writing and press releases, 890K, or about 16 minutes at 56K)

Making news that fits (Hot Text module on news articles, newsletters, and blogs, 868K, or about 16 minutes at 56K)

Entertaining people who like to read (Hot Text module on webzine articles, 723K, or about 15 minutes at 56K)


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Web Writing that Works!
  2004 Jonathan and Lisa Price
The Communication Circle
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