Make each word count

A colleague at a recent job had this quote from Mark Twain in her email signature: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

One of the greatest challenges I’ve found as a writer is to strip out unnecessary words and write as little as possible. I think that’s especially hard for people like me who’ve done marketing writing for brochures or web pages where space wasn’t a major concern. When I started doing content for an online banking application, and particularly for phones, suddenly space was at a premium.

On my first mobile project I was concerned that making it too short would sound abrupt. I worked with a good mobile writer who really helped me strip out the extra words and get to the point. That came in very handy when I had to write extremely short banner ads. The business line would send me ad copy they liked and I’d have to cut it down drastically but still convey a similar theme. The shorter ads take much longer to write than the longer ones.

Even if you’re not currently writing for very small spaces, it would be a good exercise to practice stripping down some marketing content to see if you can get the message across in half the words, or even less. Doing that makes you focus on what’s essential and cut the fluff.

Communication: New Year’s Resolutions for Communicators

Communication, not just words – here are some of this communicator’s resolutions for 2012. No gobbledygook: Dan Pallatta says it so well in his Harvard Business Review blog post entitled I Don’t Understand What Anyone is Saying Anymore. We have … Continue reading

The future of social media – a commentary

Paul Chaney (Twitter id @pchaney) blogged recently that the future of social networks is in niche communities. I found that very thought-provoking, and I found myself thinking about my own experiences, which I wanted to share.

I’m a regular on Facebook for social interactions with a broad range of people, from family members to friends from various times and places in my life. I find it a good way to keep in contact with people who I might not have any contact with if I had to do it one at a time. I’m active on LinkedIn for purposes of career networking, and have recently started tweeting to share information about my professional field and to build my personal brand.

I am also a moderator of the Cats Forum, and have been since 2004 (and a member since 2001). That forum really is a community, with a lot of people who love cats and have become good friends in the process. We have lost a few people to Facebook. Some of those people like Facebook because it has no moderation, whereas we have a few rules on the Cats forum – no personal attacks, no spamming, no discussion of politics or religion. Some people just don’t have time to do both the Cats forum and Facebook, and they can reach more people through Facebook so they do that. I think the biggest change is that Cats forum people used to share a lot of off topic things on the forum, which they now post on Facebook. There is still definitely a place for a community around a common interest, but we haven’t really seen people leaving Facebook and coming back to the forum, other than at times when they have a sick cat or a particular question.

On LinkedIn, the broad network extends my reach to companies I could not otherwise connect with, but to me the true value of LinkedIn on a day to day basis is the small groups. I am part of a number of professional sub-groups, and also one for photographers, since that is a big interest of mine. That is where the real dialogue occurs, which supports Paul’s thesis.

I’m interested to hear what others think about this, and I’ll be curious to see what the world of social media will look like in a year or two.



SharePoint Haiku

I was recently involved in the start-up of a SharePoint implementation at a large software company. I was on the governance board for the overall implementation, and also managed a large site collection. Managing site proliferation is critical to keep SharePoint from getting rapidly out of control.

When I received my AIIM newsletter today, they shared the winning haiku from a recent contest. I’ve included it below:

“SharePoint governance
poorly applied, sites blossom
scatter like petals”

Congratulations to Jim Adcock, who came up with this gem. It was my laugh of the day!

Content Management System Usability

Like many corporate Web content managers, I’ve worked with content management systems, and also with learning management systems. There was a post and discussion in the LinkedIn Content Wrangler Community about usability issues with content management systems. The difficulty of … Continue reading