Writing for the Web

At the bottom of this form you can choose to leave your name,
address and telephone number. If you leave your name and number you may be
contacted in the future to participate in a survey to help us improve this
[Removed]42 words reduced to 0.

Instructions/information should not be given in advance.

If you have comments or concerns that require a response, please
contact Customer Service.
Do not use this form for customer service enquiries. Contact
Customer Service
14 words reduced to 13. More directly stated. Also added a
direct link to contact customer service.

Writing for the Web (Monash University ITS)

Hmm… I don’t think I agree with the general statement “Instructions/information should not be given in advance.” Perhaps in some cases the instructions are given too far in advance, and should therefore be delayed until when the user might actually need them… and certainly if a web interface is so complex that it requires instructions, it would make more sense to revise the website so that it follows standard online conventions (which would reduce the user’s cognitive burden when faced with a new system).

And while it’s true that the revised customer service text is shorter and adding the link to the instructions is very helpful, the revision is also blunt. I try to state instructions in positive terms — emphasizing what the user should do: “We don’t check these survey results on a regular basis, so if you want to talk to somebody, use the customer service form instead.” But the revision depends heavily on context.

Which leads me to another problem… I recognize some of the content on this website as being copied and pasted from other source, but there are few outbound links — if I like what I saw in the excerpt from Jakob Nielsen’s page, I’d like to be able to link to it directly. (Yes, there are links at the bottom of the page, but as a college writing instrutor I cringe at writers who don’t take the time to cite properly, in the body of their text, precisely when they are using borrowed material, and to identify from where they borrowed it. (If the author simply numbered the end notes and inserted those numbers in brackets in the body of the text, I would be satisfied, though there’s really no good reason why the online material couldn’t be directly linked.)

I presume that the screen grabs that show various forms of microcontent is original, since it uses examples from Monash University, but there’s no way to link directly to those original examples; the page also does not identify an author or a date. (I had to hack the URL to learn about the site where this page was posted.) My guess is that somebody threw these links up to use during a workshop, but there’s no way to be sure.

Link found via Crawford Kilian’s blog, “Writing for the Web.” (I’ve used Kilian’s elegant book of the same name in several courses, most recently in “Writing for the Internet.”)