Web site usability is the new black

Google Analytics' graphical representation of visitor flow

Google Analytics’ graphical representation of visitor flow

Soon, you’re going to hear a lot more about why web site usability┬áis the new black.

Usability enjoyed a bright but brief heyday in the early 2000s as people realized that they could make web sites that looked better than black type with blue links on a white page. Unfortunately, usability was stomped on by the rapid rise of search engine optimization in 2003 or so. (more…)

10 things to improve your writing

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Are there only 10 things you can do to improve your writing? Of course not. But these are a good place to start. I taught them to all of my writing students over 10 years of college and university teaching, and felt I made progress.

1. Shorten your sentences. “In order to write better, one must evaluate each sentence for excess words” ::: “To write better, shorten your sentences.

2. Use the active voice. “The material at the plant was picked up by George.” ::: “George picked up the material at the plant.” Note that writing actively also shortens sentences. TIP: subject-verb-object.

3. Be positive. “I can’t say I wouldn’t be interested.” ::: “I might be interested.”

4. Write as you speak. “One must always be on one’s toes.” ::: “I need to be on my toes.” It’s more understandable. Also, fewer words.

5. Kill your darlings. If you re-read a sentence and a word or phrase stands out as awkward, it probably is. Were you trying to be clever, or to communicate better? Replace it with a better word.

6. Vary sentence structure. Just as you wouldn’t want to begin every sentence with “I,” you don’t want every sentence to begin with a modifying clause or be exactly the same length.

7. Listen. Listen to what you’re writing. Does it read smoothly? Or is it sing-songy? Do the words make sense? Do not try to “write smart.” Write for the ear, for how people talk. It will be the most understandable communication. Oh, and it’s OK these days to end a sentence with a preposition.

8. Write to your audience. “You” has always been the most important word in advertising. “You” engages your audience immediately. Try it.

9. Rewrite. No, your first draft will not be OK. Re-read and re-write.

10. In a series, simple -> complex. “Jack and Jill walked up the hill, then down the hill, and finally to have lunch with Jacques.”

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