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Annotated Bibliography 3
Chapter 8: Writing Online
Documents in ‘Designing and
Writing Online Documentation: Help files to Hypertext’ by William K. Horton.
offers guidelines to help writers of online documents. Some of these are old
guidelines that have taken on an increased importance in the electronic era.
(1) Apply the basics and attend to the
differences. To write online documents it is important that we ‘apply with a
vengeance the principles of good, clear writing’. (p195) It is also important
that we adjust to suit the differences found in the web environment and of the
user of this environment.
(2) Use short, simple, familiar words
- Clear writing is essential. Without
clear writing, online documents will fail.
- Writing online documents is different.
‘It embodies new idioms and requires new rhetorical strategies’. (p196)
Account for the differences between the printed and the electronic text.
(3) Avoid easily misread words, punctuation,
phrases. This is especially so since text that
is found on the screen is less legible
than the same thing on text.
- Avoid abstract words. This is to
facilitate better and faster comprehension of what you are trying to say.
After all, users of the computer do communicate in the same everyday
language; don’t put them through the task of learning a new vocabulary
- Avoid computer terminology. This will
confuse, annoy and frighten them away from you site!
(4) Speak simply, directly and accurately.
- Emphasize small important words
- Take care with prefixes
- Avoid Contractions and abbreviations
- Use only standard, easily read symbols
- Write simple sentences (and active
sentences). Make positive assertions; affirmative sentences are easier to
process and remember than negative ones. Keep syntax simple. Go from known
(5) Apply a consistent style throughout.
Inconsistent language confuses users and destroys confidence in the product.
Conventions set by you, the author, will make your document more dependable.
- Express ideas precisely. Speak
directly to the user; tell them what / (not) to do. State quantities exactly
since users expect computers to churn out precise info. Do not make the
computer sound human. Write for the literal-minded user. Avoid wisecracks.
(6) Say more with fewer words in less space.
Since screen size is less than page size and larger fonts are required for
- Grammatical structures. Use simple,
imperative sentences for directions and simple, declarative sentences for
- Abbreviations. Use some in words and
phrases since space is limited. However if you do abbreviate, use a
consistent scheme with which you do this.
- Special conventions
(7) Center on the user and the user’s
- Eliminate unnecessary material
- Keep paragraphs short
- Avoid blind references
- Do not repeat what the user already
- Omit what is better said elsewhere.
Electronically cross-reference online documents, refer to paper documents.
(8) Design for Jumping
in the Middle. No writer can anticipate all the possible ways a user can reach a
given topic in an intricately structured online document.
- Present ideas in natural order.
- Emphasize the new, the novel, the
- Use concrete examples to explain
- Call things what the user named them
- Anticipate questions
- Make the subject of a topic
- Do not assume a beginning, middle and
- Summarize at departure points
- Make transitions clear
- Present one idea in each topic
As with the text on ‘what not to do on the web’ this one also presented a
concise and easily accessible information on writing in the electronic
environment. The headings and sub-headings made reading easier and quicker than
huge chunks of text, like some of the other texts that I read earlier.
With regards to its relevance in the essay, I feel it has very much got to do
with what I am writing about. Although some of the points may not pertain
directly to the readers of the different environments, there is still validity
in what is said. What needs to be done now is to recognize which points are
relevant to the readers of the electronic environment and the expectations and
tastes that they have so that the writers can write accordingly! And I can also
do my essay in accordance!
Annotated Bibliography 1
Annotated Bibliography 2
Annotated Bibliography 4
Internet Users and Readers of a Printed Text
Writing in the Web Environment