Writing for the Web: Geeks' Edition

Geeks' Edition How often have you read online articles that annoyed you with poor grammar and other mistakes? How often do you arrive at a Web site that makes it difficult to scan the page to find what interests you? We all make mistakes in writing, but recurrent mistakes are a turn-off for some readers.
Considering there are millions of Web sites and hundreds covering the same topic, no one can afford to lose readers over such issues. Enter Writing for the Web: Geeks’ Edition to guide you through writing for the Web.
The book seems to be aimed at experienced Web designers who need help with content. According to the introduction, the book targets three groups:
* Strong writers with some technical skills
* Technically skilled people who write content
* Content developers for whom English is a second language
This is a broad audience, especially for a book that has “Geeks Edition” in its title. It offers common sense advice and much of the same strategies you’ll find in style books like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style as well as the Web strategies in Jakob Nielsen’s Useit Web site.
Those who are comfortable with writing will not learn anything new. I think the book is best suited for writers with little experience and people getting ready to put up a Web site for the first time.
For that audience, the basics are covered. Kilian recommends that Web text follow three principles: orientation, information, and action. Simply put: make sure your site visitors know what the Web site is about, can find their way around, can understand and trust the information, and do what you want them to do while visiting. Again, this is all common sense, but often overlooked.
The book is a good reference, especially the list of troublemaker words. Too often, I’ve seen writers use “insure” when it should be “ensure” or “affect” for “effect” and vice versa. You’ll also find abbreviation descriptions and a list of Web clichés and expressions.
Kilian gives pointers on what makes a well-written Web site and what makes a bad one. You’ll recognize advice you heard repeatedly in grade school, such as avoiding passive voice and clichés. He mentions a few things that I learned the hard way on my own. One example is to never depend on your spell checker!
Writers for corporate Web sites may value the Corporate Writing chapter. These sites are a challenge because individuals or departments try to do their own thing on the Web site. In today’s environment, companies are rushing to get to the Web. Sometimes during the mad dash, they forget to consider the audience.
If you work on a smaller scale, there’s a chapter on Personal Pages, Resumes, and Self-Marketing. You’ll get ideas on how to present a Web-based resume or portfolio of your work.
Kilian includes exercises and case studies to help the new writer absorb and remember the material. He also provides many links to Web sites for information and reference.
This is a book about writing, so I give him credit for walking the walk. I’m a proponent for consistency. For example: “email” vs. “e-mail.” I’m not going to shoot anyone for selecting one over the other, but I expect a writer to choose one and use it consistently. I did catch the use of “snail mail” two different ways in the book (one word and two words). But his use of other Web terms remains consistent.
The book touches lightly upon a wide variety of topics. It’s good to see there are resources popping up in book format to help improve the writing out there on the Web. I hope in the near future we’ll see more in-depth books on this topic as the Internet matures.
If writing is not your forte or you’re just putting up your first Web site, then this book could help you be better prepared.
Title: Writing for the Web: Geeks’ Edition
Author: Crawford Kilian
Publisher: Self-Counsel Press
ISBN: 1551803038
Date: December 2000
Format: Paperback
Pages: 194
Cover Price: USD: $21.96 Amazon: $18.66

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