Electronic Text: Writing Tips

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Plenty of other web pages offer advice on coding, design, and stylesheet tricks. This collection, emphasizing content, rather than coding, offers advice on how to write electronic documents (mostly web pages, but also e-mail and interactive fiction). It is part of a larger collection of handouts on writingDennis G. Jerz

Web Pages

Practical Tips

In-depth Features

General Introductions

Other E-Texts

E-Mail

Interactive Fiction (Text-based Computer Games)

This genre of computer game dates back to “Adventure” and “Zork” from the late 70s, and now thrives as an underground amateur movement.

Special thanks to: web.com (web design)

Recent Additions

13 Jul 2010; by Dennis G. Jerz
Interactive Fiction: Writing Text Adventure Games;
Creating interactive fiction (a genre also knows as “text adventures”) means writing computer code that represents objects and behaviors, while also creating interesting characters, a compelling plot, and maybe a few narrative surprises, all of which can be assembled for a reader to experience in multiple different ways.

20 Mar 2004; by Dennis G. Jerz
(Meme)X Marks the Spot: Theorizing Metablogging via “Meme” and “Conduit”
This paper examines metablogging in terms of Dawkins’s concept of the “meme” and Reddy’s critique of the “conduit” metaphor for communication…. The language of metablogging uses metaphors that emphasize communality and proximity, and thus offers an alternative to the social risks Reddy associates with the conduit metaphor.

20 Mar 2004; by Dennis G. Jerz
(Meme)X Marks the Spot: Theorizing Metablogging via “Meme” and “Conduit”
This paper examines metablogging in terms of Dawkins’s concept of the “meme” and Reddy’s critique of the “conduit” metaphor for communication…. The language of metablogging uses metaphors that emphasize communality and proximity, and thus offers an alternative to the social risks Reddy associates with the conduit metaphor.

20 Mar 2004; by Dennis G. Jerz
(Meme)X Marks the Spot: Theorizing Metablogging via “Meme” and “Conduit”
This paper examines metablogging in terms of Dawkins’s concept of the “meme” and Reddy’s critique of the “conduit” metaphor for communication…. The language of metablogging uses metaphors that emphasize communality and proximity, and thus offers an alternative to the social risks Reddy associates with the conduit metaphor.

15 Apr 2003; by Dennis G. Jerz
Writing Web Pages: Top 5 Conventions
Lead with your best stuff. Inform with linked text. Employ consistent navigation. Prefer simple designs. Write scannable text.

15 Oct 2002; by Dennis G. Jerz
What is this “Weblog” of Which You Speak?
What do you get when you cross an online diary with an annotated bibliography? You get a new writing genre native to the World Wide Web.

15 Nov 2002; by Dennis G. Jerz
Newbie Web Author Checklist
If you’ve recently created your first website and you’re getting ready to submit it for a class assignment, then this page is for you.

08 Nov 2002; by Dennis G. Jerz
Usability Testing: 8 Quick Tips

If you already have a prototype you want to test, you’ve already drafted a few usability testing questions, and you’re eager to learn how to make the most of your opportunity to learn from your users, then this document is for you.

25 Nov 2001; by Dennis G. Jerz
Titles for Web Pages: In-Context and Out-of-Context
Most writers know the value of an informative title, but but many beginning web authors don’t know that each web page needs two titles.

05 Feb 2001; by Dennis G. Jerz
Blurbs: How to Write Them for Web Pages
A blurb is a short paragraph that previews what’s on the other end of a link. You’re reading a blurb now. If it helps you decide whether you should click the link, then it has done its job.

11 Jan 2001; by Dennis G. Jerz
Hypertext Essays — How to Write Them
The ordinary prose essay has been around for hundreds of years; people have had a long time to discover how to write a good one.  But hypertext is a much more recent invention.

20 Jul 2000; by Dennis G. Jerz
Writing for the Internet: Why is the Advice so Scant?
Turning the pages of a book is still (and will probably always be) the best way to read a novel; after all, the novel was designed for a “novel” device — the book. But the Internet has spawned new writing genres which demand a different writing mode. Learn about that mode here.

13 Jul 2000; by Dennis G. Jerz
Writing for the Internet: Illustration of the Need
Many on-line web tutorials give practical, useful technical advice on everything from non-clashing color combinations to effective uses of animated GIFs, but barely mention writing at all. Web designers too frequently ignore their content.

18 May 2000; by Dennis G. Jerz
URL-Hacking: Do-it-yourself Navigation
You wind up on a strange web page without any hyperlinks, and with the unhelpful message “Use the ‘Go Back’ button to return to the table of contents.”  If you want to explore this web site, what do you do? Try hacking the URL.

01 May 2000; by Dennis G. Jerz
Navigation: An often-neglected Part of Web Authorship
To make the best use of hypertext, don’t blindly follow the conventions of printed, linear text.  Instead, divide your content into logical, free-standing units that can be strung together like beads, in different orders.

1 May 2000; by Dennis G. Jerz
Web Projects: What Students Should Know First
You do not have to be a computer programmer in order to create a good, useful web page.  But you need to account for the needs of strangers who might follow a search engine to your pages, which means writing in a slightly different way. And don’t spend too much time fiddling with the style of your site, so that you end up neglecting the substance.

Annotate Your Lists of Links (1998; Engineering Writing Centre, Toronto)
How Users Read on the Web (useit.com)
Links Want to Be Links (Jukka Korpela)
Web Writing for Many Interest Levels (e-gineer)


 

Useful Books
1551802074.01.LZZZZZZZ.gif (112906 bytes)Crawford Kilian
Writing for the Web
“Since many web users have spent more time watching television than reading, the graphic elements of a web site are important to them, but text remains the core of most web sites.”
020530902X.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg (34307 bytes)Strunk & White
The Elements of Style
A classic handbook, full of gems: “When he delivered his oration on brevity to the class, he leaned forward over his desk, grasped his coat lapels in his hands, and, in a husky, conspiratorial voice, said, ‘Rule Seventeen. Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!’”
Useful Links
Scientific & Technical Writing
Collection of instructional handouts on common genres such as e-mail, short reports, prototypes, etc.Jakob Nielsen
How Users Read on the Web
“They don’t. People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. In a recent study John Morkes and I found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.”

Gordon Kindlmann
Under Construction
If your website isn’t ready yet, don’t post it on the Internet. An “under construction” sign marks your site as the work of an amateur.

Anonymous Genius
WebTek Systems
A painfully funny spoof of crappy web design.