- Most writing projects include four repeatable steps: Research, Clarify, Write, and Refine
- Talk to your readers, not at them
- The words you choose affects how people relate to you
- Cut the bullshit. Use no catch-phrases or industry jargon.
- Use “they” only when you’re not sure about gender.
Approach writing in a modular way
You don’t have to go in order. You can save the introduction for last.
Use outlines in your writing
Make a reverse outline after the fist draft. Create bullet lists or headers. Are you covering what you want to say? Is the structure correct? Anything missing?
Next time you’re planning a big project, try making a list of topics you want to cover based on people you know in real life. Here’s how we did that for this book. This exercise took about two hours—and if you’re like us, you’ll want to have markers, sticky notes, and snacks nearby.
To structure your piece, it’s a good idea to practice writing modularly. Treat each paragraph or section as a building block. Write them individually, and build on your ideas as you go.
Modular writing lets you focus on one concept at a time and reshuffle things when you need to.
At an abstract level, web content is made up of different modules of text, listed here from smallest to largest: • Letters and characters • Words • Sentences • Paragraphs • Sections • Articles • Pages • Flows • Websites • Systems
title casing or sentence casing.
most style guides say to spell out numbers up to ten, but digits usually work better on the web since readers are scanning.
Cover one idea at a time. If you need to include secondary information, try linking to it instead of summarizing or repeating yourself.
Use the imperative when it’s appropriate. Talk to your readers, not at them.
Be careful with the passive voice, where the subject of the sentence comes after the object: You have received a gift card from Maria. Instead, use the active voice: Maria sent you a gift card.
Show readers how your product is different or why it’s great; don’t tell them how to feel. Avoid being melodramatic:
Most of the time, the easiest way to show your empathy is to write how you speak. How would you talk about this in person? Make it sound more like a conversation.
The words you choose affect how people relate to you and define your relationships.
Your voice is your company’s public personality. It doesn’t change much from day to day. Like your own individual personality, it comes through in all of your content and influences how people perceive you. On the other hand, your tone changes to fit the situation.
Before you publish anything, get into the habit of asking yourself, “Does this sound like me?”
attention to language enriches your content and makes you a more valuable team member—whether or not you’re a professional writer.
Learn to love talking to yourself, because reading your work out loud will transform your writing.
As you write, reflect on the role you play in your readers’ lives. It’s probably a small role, and that’s okay. The more realistic you are about that, the easier it will be to meet their needs. Be part of your community too. Think of it like building a neighborhood around your house.