Writing for Web by Lynda Felder: Final Review

What began as an experiment and blog review became a useful tool and popular topic. My idea to review Writing for the Web: Creating Compelling Web Content Using Words, Pictures, and Sound by Lynda Felder was one of the best decisions I have made for my writing. The book enabled me to tighten my writing, understand my audience, and help other writers.

Top 5 Reasons This is a Great Book for Writers:

1. It’s easy to read. The book is well organized and broken into fast-paced chapters that focus on relevant topics.

2. It’s fun to read. The examples and word choices take a technical topic, adding sound for example, and make it interesting. The word snooty was one of my favorites because you don’t see it often, especially in technical writing books.

3. Your writing will improve. If you follow Felder’s advice and practice the provided exercises, you will see a difference.

4. You can apply the tips to all of your writing. I recommend this book to all writers and those interested in writing. Not only are there tips and instruction, there are dozens of writing ideas, which helps get you started and with writers’ block.

5. It’s small and affordable. The book is 180 pages and a perfect size, so it’s not too bulky or heavy. Comparable books in the market are usually more expensive and many do not cover all of the Web topics in this one.

My only complaints are that Felder tends to repeat topics in different chapters and not everything is covered. The basics are covered, but chapters on Search Engine Optimization, keywords, and headlines are missing.

Due to the positive feedback I received from these posts and how much I learned, I look forward to reviewing more books on writing. The next book is If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit by Brenda Ueland. Future post plans include more Writing for Web tips, grammar cheats, and lots of creative, fun content!

If you bought the book, let us know what you think. And we hope everyone is enjoying Lil’ Horsemen!

Read past posts on Writing for Web.

Writing for Web: Writing Succinctly?

For the first time since reviewing Writing for Web, I disagree with much of what Felder discusses in chapter 7. Reviews and discussions wouldn’t be as interesting if we agreed all the time 🙂

In the chapter Writing Succinctly, Felder explains her tips for achieving tight, easy-to-read content that your audience will enjoy. A few of her tips suck the fun out of using language, and if you follow these tips 100 percent, your writing will read like a book report.

I assigned a win or fail rating to each tip as you go through these. They are all important, but use your common sense and own style. That’s what’s most important.

Tip 1: Stay Focused

Win – Read your content and ask yourself, “What does that sentence mean?” You will feel the flow as well to ensure you’re not rambling.

Tip 2: Be Positive

Fail – If we were positive all the time, the world would be boring. Some of the best content, movies, art, etc. are not positive and provoke debate. Sometimes you have to be negative. Where would the Internet be today if people were always positive?

Tip 3: Trust Your Reader

Both – Don’t over explain something or break down every sentence. Although, in technical writing you have to. You know your audience, so trust your instincts.

Tip 4: Choose Anglo-Saxon Words

Fail – Felder recommends using simple, one syllable words over French or Latin/Greek counterparts. For example you would use ‘end’ instead of ‘finish’ or ‘conclude’. This takes the fun out of the language, and if your writing is clear and entertaining, it doesn’t matter what words you use. If you fine-tune your work for meaning and intent, your audience will understand and appreciate it.

Tip 5: Eliminate Excess Words

Win – Take out unnecessary words and find shortened words. Read your writing aloud, and you will hear what you can cut/change. Examples are: that, got, has gotten, all of a sudden.

Tip 6: Keep Verbs Alive, Cut Adjectives and Adverbs

Win – Avoid ‘to be’ verbs. Review the post for Chapter 2 if needed, and remember that descriptive words are not always needed, nor do they make your writing better.

Tip 7: Don’t Use Arrogant and Snooty Words

Fail – Some words Felder uses as examples are: indeed, certainly, of course, and exactly. These are not snooty words, and writers who use these are not trying to be better than their audience. Keeping these words may not tighten your writing, but if you lose your voice or personality, what’s the point? Just be yourself.

Tip 8: Avoid Happy Talk and Sales Pitches

Win – Don’t be over-the-top nice or try to sell your readers. If you follow tip 3, you should trust your readers to see through you and think you are fake. People want to enjoy reading, not feel like you are trying to buy or patronize them.

Tallied up, the score is 50/50, and I will continue to use ‘indeed’ and ‘question’ if those words fit the bill. Don’t forget, you are the final judge.

Writing for Web – Chapter 2: Sound Like You, Only Better – Part Two

We took a break last week, so thanks to everyone who commented and read my first movie review. Sometimes inspiration just hits you, and you have to run with it.

This week, let’s wrap up Chapter 2. The rest of this chapter is about organizing information for your audience. Many of us are aware that our attention spans are shorter, and the world moves much faster than it used to. We want information in chunklets, and we want to be able to scan without reading. Although, I’m a little sad that every precious word isn’t read, I get it. I do the same thing.

To practice what I’ve read, here are the most effective ways to write content for your audience:

  • Keep thoughts and sentences short for reader’s attention span.
  • Write a strong lead.
  • Avoid semicolons and multiple commas because they are hard to see on screen.
  • Use bullets and lists to organize info.

Felder focuses this week’s exercises on attention to detail and brevity. These assignments were especially challenging because it’s difficult to be detailed and brief. The one below was my favorite, and I used one of my favorite books – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – instead of an author. I admit, it’s pretty cool to work with Harry Potter.

The assignment:

Find a sentence by your favorite author. Every writer can improve. Take that sentence and revise it so it follows the best practices from the Web.

125 words – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This was pure imagination, however, as he had had no opportunity to tell Hermione what he had overheard. She had disappeared from Slughorn’s party before he returned to it, or so he had been informed be an irate McLaggen, and she had already gone to bed by the time he returned to the common room. As he and Ron had left for the Burrow early the next day, he had barely had time to wish her a happy Christmas and to tell her that he had some very important news when they got back from the holidays. He was not entirely sure that she had heard him though; Ron and Lavender had been saying a thoroughly nonverbal goodbye just behind him at the same time.

98 words – R. Petty, Writing for Web

Harry couldn’t find Hermoine to tell her what he had overheard. An irate McLaggen explained she left the party early, and she was in bed by the time Harry returned to the common room. The next day as he and Ron left for the Burrow, she rushed out so quickly he barely had time to wish her a Happy Christmas. He tried to explain that he needed to see her after the holidays, but he was not sure she heard him. Ron and Lavender had been saying a thoroughly nonverbal goodbye just behind him at the same time.

There are several differences in the above examples. I think Rowling’s is written well, however I learned she uses the word ‘had’ too much. I left the last sentence as is because I liked the way she words it. It could be shorter and more direct for Web, but it wouldn’t be as subtle or fun. I did get rid of the semicolon, so I followed one rule. As you can see, by writing for Web I managed to cut 27 words from the paragraph. I’m curious if it made a difference.

So, here’s my question for you: Did you read each word, or have you skimmed this entire post? What keeps your attention? Leave replies below!

Writing for Web – Chapter 2: Sound Like You, Only Better – Part One

Chapter 2 catered to the grammar geek in me. I sometimes hear people say spelling and good grammar don’t matter anymore. With the world of short handing for texts and readers skimming everything, why do I find spelling and grammar important? For preservation. Imagine a world where we answered by saying l.o.l. instead of laughing, or instead of the special “I love you” you heard I less than three you. It’s just not the same.

Felder states in her Best Practices for Web chapter that you should sound like you, only better. Writers know their voice and tone, and new writers may not have found it yet. Felder helps you observe others and your own style, so you can hear your voice and improve it. See below for an exercise that I urge all writers to do; it only takes a few minutes.

Assignment 2: Get a story or article you wrote, and mark all the ‘to be’ verbs. Get rid of them, and edit the phrases or rewrite the sentences.

Verbs to mark: to be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been, be

Examples from my article about Arts and Entertainment in East Mississippi:

Before

Meridian Little Theater is far from small in the hearts of Mississippians. This theater dates from 1932 and seats 400 attendees. This venue has grown to be the largest community theater in the state. With the help of nearly 1,000 volunteers, MLT is able to produce more than 50 performances a year.

After

The Meridian Little Theatre holds a big place in the hearts of Mississippians. This theater dates from 1932 and seats 400 attendees. As the largest community theater in the state, and with the help of nearly 1,000 volunteers, MLT produces more than 50 performances a year.

Before

The Meridian Museum of Art is located in the city’s only remaining Carnegie Library. Built in 1912-1913, the museum houses all that is art in the area. Along with supporting regional artists with exhibits and groups, the museum offers art education and outreach to the community.

After

The Meridian Museum of Art houses art in the area. Built in 1912-1913, the museum resides in Meridian’s only remaining Carnegie Library. Along with supporting regional artists with exhibits and groups, the museum offers art education and outreach to the community.

As you can see, the assignment truly made a difference. The writing becomes clearer, and overall I managed to cut about 40 words from this article.

Also in chapter 2, Felder gives you various tips on writing about writing succinctly, using conversational tone, and what to avoid such as idioms and trendy phrases. She also reworks the famous, “show, don’t tell” advice by insisting we do both – we show and tell.

I found these tips useful and will implement them immediately. For fun, see if you can find a ‘to be’ verb in my review, and feel free share your editing tips below.

For extra fun: This week my co-author recommended this inspirational video — creative types will enjoy this pick. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kc3JqVIIJA

Writing for Web – Book Review Intro

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to write for Web. Now, I write frequently at work and those articles are on websites, but is it the same as writing for Web? What is it that writers do differently for print and Web? Does it expand further than SEO-friendly terms and funny videos?

I did a quick Amazon search and found a book entitled, Writing for Web: Creating Compelling Web Content Using Words, Pictures, and Sounds. Honestly, I picked this book because it was cheaper than similar books and had good reviews for being easy to use, interesting and entertaining, and effective.

My book arrived, and I immediately began thumbing through the pages. That’s when I noticed the Try This and Challenges sections. I thought, “this book is not only going to teach me how to write for Web, it’s going to MAKE me do it and interact with me.” I was sold.

While I was reading the intro the author suggested taking breaks to do the exercises. She emphasized taking these breaks to get the most out of the book and asked that I keep an open mind.

Here, I had this idea: I should blog my progress and treat it like an interactive book review. So, here we are. I’m going to review this book, and include my Try This and Challenges sections, as an experiment to see how I like blogging regularly, try to build an audience for our creative projects, and truly learn how to write compelling content for Web. As an added bonus, we’ll see how much others can learn too.

So, let the journey begin, and let this quote motivate you to do something different today:

“Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.”Doug Firebaugh