2009 in articles and blog entries

To bring the curtain down on 2009 I thought I’d share nine of my favourite articles and blog entries of the past year. Whether they’ve helped me learn new methods, question any pre-held beliefs, or simply helped me to do my job better; one way or another they’ve all made an impact.

Writing Decisions: Saving space without losing meaning

Jason Fried, Signal vs. Noise, January

“Think about what you really need to say, write it in place, figure remove what’s non-essential, pare it down, make sure you’re getting to the point without using terms that require additional explanation, rewrite, compare with the original, see if you’re missing anything important, and wrap it up.”

Trying to free up space by cutting existing copy without losing the overall message is always a challenge for a copywriter – especially when it was your own work to start with.

In Defense of Readers

Mandy Brown, A List Apart Issue 278, February

“Despite the ubiquity of reading on the web, readers remain a neglected audience. Readers flourish when they have space—some distance from the hubbub of the crowds—and as web designers, there is yet much we can do to help them carve out that space.”

It’s impossible not to learn a great deal from Mandy’s article on how to make reading on the web a little more comfortable for those that like to lose themselves in the words.

Toward Content Quality

Colleen Jones, UXmatters, April

“In my experience, a common misperception of the evaluation of content quality is that its scope is limited to the correction of typos and grammatical errors. Correcting spelling and grammar only scratches the surface. To truly consider content quality, we need to examine its quality along several dimensions.”

I see Coleen’s checklists as the filter from which lean, consistent, and task-driven content emerges.

Writing Killer Web Headings and Links

Gerry McGovern, April

“Web content is brutal and to-the-point. Lead with the need. Don’t get to the point. Start with the point.”

I had the pleasure of seeing Gerry speak in July. His blog entries, both thought-provoking and delivered with plenty of bite, certainly help to blow the cobwebs away on a Monday morning.

Writing Microcopy

Joshua Porter, June

“Microcopy is small yet powerful copy. It’s fast, light, and deadly. It’s a short sentence, a phrase, a few words. A single word. It’s the small copy that has the biggest impact. Don’t judge it on its size…judge it on its effectiveness.”

In moments of doubt microcopy can provide readers with both the assurance and confidence in the task you would like them to perform. Joshua Porter expertly conveys its importance as well as demonstrating great live examples.

The Case for Content Strategy—Motown Style

Margot Bloomstein, A List Apart Issue 290, August

“What’s your role? Are you a designer who needs “real copy” for your comps? Maybe you’re an information architect trying to organize an experience, or a search engine marketer eager to influence your client with keywords they’ll actually use. Whatever your role, a content strategist can help you be more successful.”

I had a visual stab this year at explaining how a content strategist can collaborate with different members of a web project, but Margot got it across beautifully in words.

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(or, Variables in Interface Language)

Chris Noessel, Cooper Journal, August

“Variables in interface language are best when they fit in seamlessly, i.e. when they just read as content. When done this way, they can convey a sense of your software’s being more personal and smart.”

Copy that reads something like ‘you have 1 unread articles’ tend to jar with me. I see sentences that still read correctly despite containing one or more variables as a sign of quality and a big test of a copywriter’s skill in anticipation.

Content Strategy for the Web Professional

Jonathan Kahn, September

“No amount of research, information architecture, interaction design, or usability testing can create a great user experience if the content isn’t useful and usable—if it doesn’t help the user to get things done.”

Jonathan Kahn approaches the discipline of content strategy with a healthy dose of everyday realism. Anyone who’s ever took the time to consider the who, what, when, where, and why implications of their web content have been doing it all along without probably realising.

Write now, I’m cooking with Chef-O-Matic

Relly Annett-Baker, Stuff and Nonsense, October

“When writing for a client it isn’t enough to bring out the biggest thesaurus you have and throw down some fancy words. You need to know your subject inside and out.”

You can learn so much from reading about how your peers approach the challenges of their craft. The supplied images of printed draft copy daubed with the copywriter’s red pen never fail to fascinate.