10 Reasons Writing Isn’t Just Bulleted Lists


By Marli Mesibov

Day One of Confab: Did you know that writing for the web is about more than just bulleted lists? Today’s workshop “Beyond Bullet Points” by Relly Annett-Baker is about just this. Here are ten great takeaways to improve your writing for the web:

  1. Planning content takes time. The most time consuming aspect of content creation is actually the research and planning, not the creating! Designers and developers are expected to give estimates, but copywriters frequently just try to stick to the designer’s schedule. Given the time that planning can take, we need to make our own estimates.
  2. It’s OK to not know everything. Content Strategy is an enormous arena. Relly put it well:  “You don’t need to know everything, you just need to be a couple of steps ahead, toward where you need to be going.”
  3. Learn through observation. Content strategy can influence what’s on the page, as well as persona creation, and even process. During the research stage, part of that research is learning about your team, their process, and what they know about the user.
  4. Content strategy is largely Excel sheets. Don’t dis the content audit! As part of that planning stage, content audits are a huge aspect of creating and understanding what eventually goes on the web.
  5. You are not a deliverable. Planning for content isn’t just thinking about delivering writing or video. Ask yourself: how can we test this? What style guide are we using? How often do I need to iterate with the designer? What are the user goals? What are the business goals?
  6. Don’t sit out just because you haven’t been invited. Actively look for ways to be a part of the project. Encourage a developer to join a design meeting, so that you can learn about the plan for error messages. Offer to join the initial brainstorms.
  7. Collaborate. Final designs should have input from the content strategist, and final content needs input from the developer. A truly multidisciplinary team allows the group to work together, not each in their separate box. Some suggestions:
    • When the PM briefs the team, this is not the last time you all speak!
    • When you meet the team, learn about their working styles and familiarity with the roles of others.
    • Collaborate and iterate!
  8. Be sensitive to other peoples’ efforts. Just as you excel at writing but perhaps not at development, others may not excel at writing. “Who wrote this crap?” is never the right response to someone else’s copy – it inevitably turns out to be the CEO! When pointing out why something doesn’t work, try to back it up with data or analytics or research, even if in your heart of hearts you know it’s just not working.
  9. Content should be short and engaging. Engaging? Well, duh. But how do you make content engaging (and clear enough) while keeping it very very short? Always ask “WHY” it needs to be shorter. When you cut down your copy, knowing why it needs to be cut down will help you to cut out the right aspects.
  10. It’s not just about bulleted lists. There is far more to content strategy than just copy. There’s research and planning, which we’ve touched on, but there are also so many different ways to present content: Bulleted lists, paragraph text, headlines, videos, comics, infographics, graphics, and more.

Are you missing out on the fun from Confab? Follow Marli’s updates on Twitter at #confab12.

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