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Writing for Engagement [TechReady 22]

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Writing for Engagement [TechReady 22]

  1. 1. WRI TI NG FOR ENGAGEMENT Aaron Gustafson @AaronGustafson slideshare.net/AaronGustafson
  2. 2. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT What we’ll cover today ๏ Identifying Lifeless Writing ๏ Identifying Your Audience ๏ Clarifying Your Goals ๏ Writing with Clarity and Purpose ๏ Establishing a Shared Voice ๏ Getting in Tune with Your Tone ๏ Connecting with Readers ๏ Writing with Style ๏ Revising and Editing 2
  3. 3. Here Be Zombies.
  4. 4. Incorporating our corporate culture into our business processes and customer needs, we continue to leverage our exceptional and effective work practices, improve operational effectiveness to meet business objectives and create win-win situations for our employees and shareholders. EXEMPLI GRATIA
  5. 5. It is the opinion of the group assembled for the purpose of determining a probability of the likelihood of the meteorological-related results and outcome for the period encompassing the next working day that the odds of precipitation in the near-term are positive and reasonably expected. EXEMPLI GRATIA
  6. 6. After notification of NMFS, this final rule requires all CA/OR DGN vessel operators to have attended one Skipper Education Workshop after all workshops have been convened by NMFS in September 1997. CA/OR DGN vessel operators are required to attend Skipper Education Workshops at annual intervals thereafter, unless that requirement is waived by NMFS. NMFS will provide sufficient advance notice to vessel operators by mail prior to convening workshops. EXEMPLI GRATIA
  7. 7. Microsoft Edge is the default browser for all Windows 10 devices. It is built to be highly compatible with the modern web. For some enterprise web apps and a small set of sites on the web that were built to work with older technologies like ActiveX, you’ll find a new option that lets you access that site using Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10. EXEMPLI GRATIA
  8. 8. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Good content is… ๏ Clear ๏ Useful ๏ Friendly 8
  9. 9. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Start with two questions: ๏ Who am I writing this for? ๏ Why am I writing it? 9
  10. 10. Know Your Audience
  11. 11. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT You may have many ๏ Primary: Kids and their parents ๏ Secondary: Grandparents/relatives, teachers, collectors 11
  12. 12. HELPFUL HINT Sometimes it’s helpful to distill your audience into a “persona”or (better yet) a real person.
  13. 13. “I’m writing this post for Tim Kadlec.”
  14. 14. Clarify Your Goals
  15. 15. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Ways to get there ๏ Draft a mission statement ๏ Write a thesis statement ๏ Jot down key points ๏ Write what you want them to take away ๏ Write a goal statement 15
  16. 16. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT When writing a goal statement ๏ Be specific. What does this piece need to do and why does it matter? ๏ Be practical. Make sure your goal is achievable. Sometimes a long piece may be more digestible as a series. 16
  17. 17. This post help Tim Kadlec understand what web components are and when they could be useful. GOAL STATEMENT
  18. 18. This post will get Tim Kadlec up to speed with web component best practices. Tim is an industry leader who will share what he learns with other web designers and developers, helping us improve interop
 on the open Web. GOAL STATEMENT
  19. 19. Write with Your Readers in Mind
  20. 20. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT A few guidelines ๏ Be clear. ๏ Be concise. ๏ Be honest. ๏ Be considerate. ๏ Write how you speak. 20
  21. 21. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Clear writing ๏ Write as an expert, but also educate. You know (or should know) the subject you’re writing about; your audience may not. Explain what’s important and why. ๏ Write simply and in a straightforward manner. If there’s a shorter or less pretentious way to say something, do that instead. ๏ Limit each sentence to one idea. ๏ Be as specific as possible. Avoid vague instructions like“update your email settings”, spell things out:“Go to Settings > Email" ๏ Use words consistently. For example, make sure navigation labels align: “Leave Your Comment”vs.“My Account”. ๏ Avoid abbreviations and jargon. Not everyone understand the topic like you do, so spell things out clearly. Avoid ambiguous abbreviations like CA (is that California or Canada or Computer Associates?). 21
  22. 22. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT For example Needs Help discover incentivize objective obtain utilize, leverage IT Pros line of business Clear Alternative find 22
  23. 23. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Concise writing ๏ Start with the main idea. In journalism, this is called the inverted triangle. Unless there’s exposition or framing required, get the core message front and center. ๏ Make it scannable. Group related content together. Have an arc to the piece that makes sense. ๏ Write simple sentences. For example,“Other Questions? Contact us.”is preferable to“For assistance with questions not addressed here, please click here to get in touch with us.” ๏ Talk to your readers. Don’t talk about yourself or the technology, talk about them and what they can do with it. Use the active voice. 23
  24. 24. HELPFUL HINT Awkward sentences are best avoided through use of the “active voice”.
  25. 25. HELPFUL HINT Write in the“active voice”and you’ll avoid awkward sentences.
  26. 26. HELPFUL HINT If you can insert“by zombies”after the verb, the sentence is in passive voice.
  27. 27. The town
 was attacked
 (by zombies).
  28. 28. Zombies attacked the town.
  29. 29. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT These could all be rewritten ๏ Your feedback is appreciated. ๏ In today’s preview build, the new rendering engine is hosted within Internet Explorer. ๏ When a property is declared as a const, compilers are sure that the value of that property would not change over the lifetime of the program. ๏ When we initially announced HSTS in Windows 10, we noted that mixed content is not supported on servers supporting HSTS. With today’s updates, this is still the case in Microsoft Edge on Windows 10 – mixed content is always blocked on these servers. 29
  30. 30. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Honest writing ๏ Be careful in what you say. Always double-check what you’ve said, backing up claims with facts. ๏ Tell the truth. Don’t say something just because it sounds nice. You can soften bad news. ๏ Show, don’t tell. Avoid using fluffy, vacuous words & phrases like “industry-leading”and“powerful”and show readers why something is great rather than telling them. 30
  31. 31. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Considerate writing ๏ Be polite. Write like the person is going to read it in front of you. ๏ Be inclusive. Watch out for words that might turn people off or make them feel alienated. Avoid jargon, catchphrases, idioms, “in”jokes, and cultural references that may not translate well. 31
  32. 32. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT For example Jargon bespoke tweeps viral crushed it disruptive game changer Inclusive Alternative custom or unique Twitter friends popular or shared won or were successful new or unconventional significantly changes things 32
  33. 33. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Considerate writing ๏ Be polite. Write like the person is going to read it in front of you. ๏ Be inclusive. Watch out for words that might turn people off or make them feel alienated. Avoid jargon, catchphrases, idioms, “in”jokes, and cultural references that may not translate well. ๏ Be respectful of personal names & genders. It’s ok (and perhaps most inclusive) to use a singular“they”or“them”. 33
  34. 34. Connect with
 Your Readers
  35. 35. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT You connect when you ๏ Maintain a consistent voice. 35
  36. 36. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Great voices ๏ Put the customer first ๏ Reflect the company’s culture ๏ Are lively, human, and appropriate ๏ Don’t sacrifice clarity for personality ๏ Evolve over time 36
  37. 37. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT This, but not that MailChimp is… ๏ Fun but not childish ๏ Clever but not silly ๏ Confident but not cocky ๏ Smart but not stodgy ๏ Cool but not alienating ๏ Informal but not sloppy ๏ Helpful but not overbearing ๏ Expert but not bossy ๏ Weird but not inappropriate 37
  38. 38. HELPFUL HINT Read your
 work aloud.
  39. 39. HELPFUL HINT Before reading
 it aloud, say
 “Listen to me, I have something to
 tell you.”
  40. 40. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT You connect when you ๏ Maintain a consistent voice. ๏ Take the appropriate tone. 40
  41. 41. WRITING FOR PEOPLE Plutchik’s wheel of emotions Joy Sadness FearAnger Disgust Surprise Anticipation Trust contempt aggressiveness optimism love submission awe remorse disapproval
  42. 42. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Content mapping Content Type Error message
 Help Document
 Blog Post Emotions Confusion, stress, anger Confusion, annoyance Interest, anticipation, curiosity Tone Gentle, calm, serious
 Straightforward, helpful Casual, friendly 42
  43. 43. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT You connect when you ๏ Maintain a consistent voice. ๏ Take the appropriate tone. ๏ Think through your message. That means not only having a good idea of what you want to say, but how you should say it. ๏ “Don’t‘network’or ’promote’, just talk.” (Thank you Neil Gaiman!) 44
  44. 44. Writing with Style
  45. 45. Nouns!
  46. 46. HELPFUL HINT The best nouns
 are concrete,
 not abstract
  47. 47. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Which sounds better? Work in a consulting relationship with internal and external customers to decompose complex business problems and create information and education products. 
 OR 
 We’ll work with you and your customers to solve business problems and create new products. 48
  48. 48. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Avoid“groupspeak” Heavy rains throughout most of the State have given an optimistic outlook for lessened fire danger for the rest of the season. However, an abundance of lightning maintains a certain amount of hazard in isolated areas that have not received an excessive amount of rain. We were pleased to have been able to help Nevada with the suppression of their conflagration. 49
  49. 49. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Avoid“groupspeak” Heavy rains throughout most of the State have given an optimistic outlook for lessened fire danger for the rest of the season. However, an abundance of lightning maintains a certain amount of hazard in threatens isolated dry areas that have not received an excessive amount of rain. We were pleased to have been able to help Nevada with the suppression of their conflagration fight their fires. 50
  50. 50. HELPFUL HINT Avoid clichés
 (e.g.“Holy Grail”) and come up with your own vivid descriptors
  51. 51. HELPFUL HINT Nix PAWs and
 banish euphemisms
  52. 52. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Let’s clarify PAW or euphemism puissant risible tendentious downsizing flotation device friendly reminders complimentary Natural powerful laughable biased cutting jobs, firing staff life preserver notices, notifications, alerts free 53
  53. 53. Verbs!
  54. 54. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Types of verbs ๏ Static (e.g. is, were, had been) ‣Existential (e.g. to be) ‣Wimpy (e.g. appears, seems)
 hedge on saying something real ๏ Dynamic (e.g. whistle, waffle, wander) ๏ Sensing (e.g. feel, look, taste, smell, and sound)
 sometimes dynamic, sometimes static. 55
  55. 55. HELPFUL HINT Static verbs
 lack punch.
  56. 56. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Riff on a sentence ๏ The woman is online. ๏ She waits for the webpage to load. ๏ She surfs to her favorite site. ๏ She trolls the page’s comments. ๏ She lingers on a homepage for a moment and dives into an article that catches her eye. ๏ She completes her order, then closes the browser. 57
  57. 57. HELPFUL HINT Verbs as participles add to the action.
  58. 58. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Courtesy William Finnegan ๏ onrushing water ๏ punishing waves ๏ shifting mountains of water ๏ twenty-foot splitting tubes ๏ the glassy, rumbling pea green wall 59
  59. 59. HELPFUL HINT You can turn
 nouns into verbs.
  60. 60. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT They should paint a picture Shakespeare arouse impede jet pander petition rant Modern google tweet podcast multitask moon 61
  61. 61. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Don’t pass the buck Weak It has come to our attention Every effort is being made take into consideration Any involvement has been vigorously denied by the company; a statement will be issued shortly Stronger We noticed We are trying consider The company denies involvement and will comment soon. 62
  62. 62. Adjectives!
  63. 63. HELPFUL HINT The thesaurus is your friend.
  64. 64. HELPFUL HINT Avoid redundancy & verbosity by picking better adjectives
 & eliminating extraneous ones.
  65. 65. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Examples of redundancy Redundant Our employees are already stressing over the rapidly increasing and already numerous Internet projects. The AOL deal positioned Intuit as one of the leading and most aggressive players in the online financial services industry. The market for goods from China remains large and robust. Better Our employees are already stressing over proliferating Internet projects.
 The AOL deal positioned Intuit as one of the dominant players in the online financial services industry. The market for goods from China remains robust. 66
  66. 66. HELPFUL HINT Avoid pairing opposites.
  67. 67. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT A few examples ๏ New tradition ๏ Original copy ๏ Partial cease-fire 68
  68. 68. Adverbs!
  69. 69. HELPFUL HINT Replace weak adverbs with
 stronger words.
  70. 70. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Cross-fit for your sentences Weak speaks softly eats hungrily very pretty extremely good Strong whispers devours fetching delicious 71
  71. 71. Other trinkets and baubles
  72. 72. HELPFUL HINT It’s okay to start a sentence with a conjunction.
  73. 73. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Don’t do it often, but… ๏ “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”—Mark Twain ๏ “And God said, let there be light…”—Old Testament 74
  74. 74. HELPFUL HINT Write clearly (and with punctuation)
  75. 75. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT These are real: ๏ “William Kelly, 87, Was Fed Secretary” ๏ “Hersey Bars Protest” ๏ “British Left Waffles On Falkland Islands” ๏ “Teacher Strikes Idle Kids” ๏ “The company’s refrigerator holds microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.” 76
  76. 76. HELPFUL HINT Squash false starts.
  77. 77. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT False starts lack conviction ๏ I think that this book will set you straight. ๏ There are writers out there who are desperate for pithy advice. ๏ It is my opinion that everyone needs grammar. 78
  78. 78. HELPFUL HINT Repetition can propel the reader forward, build momentum, and
 stir emotion.
  79. 79. We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
  80. 80. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Other useful language tools ๏ Assonance repeats vowel sounds within words
 (e.g.“It was clean. It was neat.”) ๏ Consonance repeats initial consonant sounds
 (e.g.“The water was warm”) ๏ Rhyme sets up corresponding final syllable(s) of words
 (e.g.“Hop on Pop”) ๏ Alliteration repeats initial sounds
 (e.g.“Miss Twining teaches tying knots”) ๏ Onomatopoeia is a made up word for a sound
 (e.g. zap, ding, oof, whap) 81
  81. 81. Revising and Editing
  82. 82. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Editing tips ๏ Read it out loud. This is a great way to catch yourself using pompous language and grammatical errors. ๏ Ask for feedback. Be specific about what sort of feedback you are looking for (e.g. high-level, line-edit, etc.). 83
  83. 83. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT High-level feedback ๏ Is it clear? Does it make sense? ๏ Does it flow? Are there places you get lost? ๏ Does it cover the most important topics? ๏ Does anything insult your intelligence or go over your head? ๏ Are there places where you need a story or an example? 84
  84. 84. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Receiving feedback ๏ Listen for the levels. Use this to help you decide what to do next. Small changes you might make right away, whereas substantial structural changes may be worth holding on until you get more feedback or do more research. ๏ Talk it out. If you don’t understand a comment, talk to the reviewer. Solve the problem together. ๏ Appreciate it. Feedback is a gift, not an insult. 85
  85. 85. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Editing tips ๏ Read it out loud. This is a great way to catch yourself using pompous language and grammatical errors. ๏ Ask for feedback. Be specific about what sort of feedback you are looking for (e.g. flow, line-edit, etc.). ๏ Make a reverse outline. Read through the piece and outline its contents. Does the outline make sense? 86
  86. 86. WRITING FOR ENGAGEMENT Giving feedback ๏ Ask before overhauling it. The author may take offense to seeing the whole thing rewritten. ๏ Give good feedback. Summarize what you changed and why. Acknowledge good work too. ๏ Look for themes. If you see a consistent mistake from an author, think about how to teach them a better way. ๏ Don’t kill their voice. ๏ Show them what works. Again, this is about explaining why something should be changed. ๏ Be willing to negotiate. Style decisions are not a matter of right and wrong. 87
  87. 87. Recommended Reading
  88. 88. Thank you! @AaronGustafson aaron-gustafson.com slideshare.net/AaronGustafson

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