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Topic: Writing

Writing and editing for the web. Copy as user interface. Writing content that works for a living: how anybody who touches copy can make a difference by insisting that every chunk of text on the site do something concrete. Words that zing. Websites for learners. Making up stories: perception, language, and the web. Cure content-delay syndrome. Revive anorexic web writing. Better writing through design.

  • Writing for Designers

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    Words matter. Even in something as banal as a form, the words we choose can determine what someone does and what they fail to do. In this excerpt from Writing for Designers, Scott Kubie explains the purpose of prose in a design and why we need to be more intentional with how we use words.

  • The FAQ as Advice Column

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    The FAQ has grown out of favor with some factions of late, but Caroline Roberts argues that the simple question and answer format can be just what you need. With a few modern tweaks and some thoughtful intent, kick your FAQs up a notch.

  • Order Out of Chaos: Patterns of Organization for Writing on the Job

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    The meaning of what you write isn’t only the the words. The sequence of information, the categories you use, the emphasis you imply through your hierarchy—all of these decisions have a huge influence on audience understanding. Richard Rabil, Jr., explains how to use foundational patterns of organization to help you convey what you mean to say.

  • So You Want to Write an Article?

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    Ready to write a professional article? Make sure your submission is the best it can be! ALA editor Brandon Gregory gives some advice on common pitfalls the editorial team sees in article submissions, including advice for picking your topic, writing intros, and adding authority to your ideas.

  • We’re Looking for People Who Love to Write

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    Publishing on A List Apart isn’t as easy-peasy as dashing off a post on your blog, but the results—and the audience—are worth it. And when you write for A List Apart, you never write alone: our industry-leading editors, technical editors, and copy editors are ready to help you polish your best idea from good to great. Come share with us!

  • Widen Out: Using Your Blog to Attract New Clients

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    A weblog’s ability to attract client work is one of its most overlooked benefits. JustReachOut’s Dmitry Dragilev shares some simple ideas on how to create content that generates real interest in our work.

  • Write What You Know (Now)

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    We talk ourselves out of writing (or at least out of publishing) in all kinds of ways: It states the obvious. There’s no conclusion. No one will read it. Someone might read it! Well, so what? You never know how much that seemingly insignificant story of yours may be appreciated in the future—it could be one of a handful of search hits on an obscure issue; it could be a reminder of how you used to work 15 years ago; it could help people get to know you better; and best of all, it can definitely help you gain confidence in communicating. So give yourself permission to write what you know so far, because you’re the only one stopping you.

  • Reclaiming Social: Content Strategy for Social Media

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    When we talk about content, we mean all the content: words, pictures, videos, the whole shebang. And—surprise, surprise—that includes social media. Too often neglected or left to the mercy of Klout, social media accounts need the same care, strategic planning, and governance as the rest of your digital properties. Ida Aalen and Ida Jackson explain how content strategy is just the tool to dust off your accounts, regain control, and start producing better social media content today.

  • Building Nonlinear Narratives for the Web

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    The web operates in ways that can conflict with our traditional view of what a “story” is. Content is chunked, mixed, and spread across channels, devices, and formats. How do we understand story lines, characters, interactions, and the role of the audience, given this information sprawl? Cue nonlinear narratives—Senongo Akpem guides us past basic “scrolly-telling” to immersive, sometimes surprising experiences.

  • Conference Proposals that Don’t Suck

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    Conference proposals seem simple enough: throw your thoughts into a text form on a website, keep them within the suggested word limit, and hit send with high hopes of winning over organizers. But there’s much more to a successful conference proposal than meets the eye, and Russ Unger is here to walk through the steps involved with getting your germ of an idea into a polished state that will impress any committee.

  • Training the CMS

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    Launching a site powered by lovingly crafted content models is a joy. But what happens in the weeks that follow, as authors start entering new content into the CMS? If you want to keep your well-structured content intact and on strategy, a training PDF won’t cut it. Let Eileen Webb show you what will: getting editorial guidelines where your authors need them most—in the CMS itself.

  • Writing Is Thinking

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    When you write about your work, it makes all of us smarter for the effort, including you. Done well, this kind of sharing means you’re contributing signal, instead of noise. But writers are made, not born. We often hear from people who say they’d love to write for A List Apart or start blogging, but don’t know where to start. They feel unfocused and overwhelmed by the task. If this is beginning to sound like you, read on, as Sally Kerrigan walks you through how writing works, and how you can get better at it.

  • A List Together

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    A List Apart gets back to its roots: building community, giving a platform to new voices, and getting people excited about the web. We’re making changes to the way we work—starting with our decision to open-source the code that powers alistapart.com itself—and we want you to participate. Our Mat Marquis invites you to contribute code and concepts via GitHub, get to know our acquisition scouts, and use ALA and its editors to share your ideas and insights with the whole web design and development community.

  • Don’t Poke the Bear: Creating Content for Sensitive Situations

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    Delivering bad news is hard, but it’s part of life and business. We notify customers when we’re out of a product they want to buy, and we send warnings when people violate our companies’ terms of service. God forbid we have to send a system alert because our database was hacked, affecting every one of our users. But these things happen to the best of us. Can you be the bearer of bad news in a way that respects your customers? Learn how to create empathetic content for tricky situations, and shape your internal culture to foster human values of support, respect, and empathy.

  • “Like”-able Content: Spread Your Message with Third-Party Metadata

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    Woman does not share by links alone. Although formatting our content via structural markup makes it accessible across a multitude of platforms, standard HTML by itself offers no means to control how our message will come across when shared on popular social networks. Enter third-party metadata schemas. Facebook’s Open Graph protocol (OG) and Twitter’s Cards are metadata protocols designed to provide a better user experience around content shared on these social platforms. Clinton Forry explains how to use these tools for good.

  • Uncle Sam Wants You (to Optimize Your Content for Mobile)

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    Thirty-one percent of Americans who access the internet from a mobile device say that’s the way they always or mostly go online. For this group, if your content doesn’t exist on mobile, it doesn’t exist at all. The U.S. government has responded with a broad initiative to make federal website content mobile-friendly. Karen McGrane explains why this matters—and what you can learn from it.

  • Your Content, Now Mobile

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    Making your content mobile-ready isn’t easy, but if you take the time now to examine your content and structure it for maximum flexibility and reuse, you’ll have stripped away all the bad, irrelevant bits, and be better prepared the next time a new gadget rolls around. This excerpt from Karen McGrane’s new book, Content Strategy for Mobile, will help you get started.

  • Being Real Builds Trust

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    Tons of products and services are the best, easiest, simplest, smartest things ever. They also all increase profits, decrease costs, and save you time. And as a result, they all sound the same. These kinds of qualifiers overrun our content because we’re constantly looking around at what everyone else is doing, rather than being honest about who we are. But trust inspires confidence, and it’s confidence that compels decision-making. Steph Hay shows us how to win customers by being real with our content.

  • Future-Ready Content

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    The future is flexible, and we’re bending with it. From responsive web design to futurefriend.ly thinking, we’re moving quickly toward a web that’s more fluid, less fixed, and more easily accessed on a multitude of devices. As we embrace this shift, we need to relinquish control of our content as well, setting it free from the boundaries of a traditional web page to flow as needed through varied displays and contexts. Most conversations about structured content dive headfirst into the technical bits: XML, DITA, microdata, RDF. But structure isn’t just about metadata and markup; it’s what that metadata and markup mean. Sara Wachter-Boettcher shares a framework for making smart decisions about our content’s structure.

  • Making up Stories: Perception, Language, and the Web

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    Stories have been around as long as we have, helping us understand our world and ourselves. We learn and retain information best through stories, because they turn information into more than the sum of its parts. But what makes a story a story, and what does it mean for the digital world we’ve built? Elizabeth McGuane and Randall Snare weave an enchanting tale of attention, comprehension, inference, coherence, and shopping.