Simple writing is hardest to ignore

Men of few words are the best men. – William Shakespeare Some people are good talkers. They are also good at explaining things. Ask them and they will give you the background, the grounds-up view of things, and break down complex technologies and processes to reveal their inside significance. Ask them to write it down, and it may appear something out of the world for them to be asked to do so. That is just fine. With novice writers engaged to write while at work, the problem appears to be a tendency to put everything down together at once – the what, where and the why’s, the background, and every aspect worth conveying. So that nothing is left out, and the good intentions are understood. Simple text and language are hard to produce, but harder to ignore. In my experience, the aspects of writing that usually go wrong are: Not being able to tie up several ideas togetherCramming too much informationThe order of information...
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A SIMPLE STRUCTURE FOR WHITEPAPERS

Someone recently asked whether whitepapers are not dead? Maybe, this is the natural end of whatever marketing touches. What’s a whitepaper all about?As a marketing tool, many companies publish whitepapers. They are given as takeaways (after filling out a form). Press releases are sent out to tell the world that a new whitepaper has just been published. They are supposed to bring in leads and sales (serious buyers), support new product launches, display thought leadership, or simply generate goodwill. Traditionally, a whitepaper explores a problem situation from all perspectives, goes in-depth, and comes out with a reasoned solution or recommendation. What typically forms a whitepaper subject?Churchill wrote a whitepaper on Palestine. And there has been a whitepaper on the use of five words in contracts that can harm closure of construction projects – a whitepaper on why not to use those five words. Usually complex issues form the ideal subject for whitepapers. That means the writer will begin with a broad topic, and then zero-in...
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Customized content, or writing you can pick and use?

Here is a question that’s been at the back of my mind for sometime. Can content or writing be offered as packaged, templated, or automated in some way, so that customers can pick up the write-up they want and use it right away, with some little tweaks? Ever seen a grocery website that says – we sell processed food, write to sales for more information? We wouldn’t really know what they sell. But we do know, or at least have a vague idea of, what we want. So as customers we want to see the actual product, go over choices, and take our pick. And that’s how it is done. This option is usually not available when we want content done for internal projects and marketing. Writing agencies can only offer ‘writing and editing services’ (like offering processed food), dive into process details, and show samples of work done earlier. After all, every write-up is meant to be fresh and unique. And to...
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A good whitepaper

Whitepapers are hard to write, and even harder to read. But I really got engrossed with this one: WhitePaperNo52-TheEndofHistoryAgain The language is terrific, easy to follow, fun to read, and carries loads of insights, easy encapsulation and structuring. The headlines add their weight as well. Either we should write like this, or not write that whitepaper at all. ...
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Project status, tracking template in Excel for content management

Messy and garbled Excel sheets are a nightmare for content writers and managers. To make project tracking simple, I created this flexible and responsive project tracking template Excel sheet. Content writers and project managers sometimes handle loads of documents. A lengthy and multi-point content review process adds to the complexity of knowing the exact situation of each article or content piece. There are many project templates available on the internet. Some are simply timelines templates. But few come close to tackling the details and complexities that exist on the ground for writers and content creators. The Excel project tracker is divided into three neat areas: Writing, Review and Final Status. This makes it easy to switch and check the status of each stage, and prevents the tracker from getting cluttered. The project status template is meant to be maintained by writers, though reviewers too can add their status updates. The tool uses automatic field update features of Excel to reduce manual entry in multiple columns. So when a writer enters a status...
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Jargon Density Checker: Optimize your language to drive conversions

I know, its a lowly Word macro, but it also comes adorned with your ultra favorite, old styled windows message box. Presenting the Jargon Density Checker macro for Word 2007 and later versions, with all my pride. No one knows how or when it began. I suspect technology had a hand in it. Or may be business owners wanting to say something as well as not say it. After all, everyone had to have a ‘core’ competency. Not less or more. Core, as in core. Jargon isn’t always ‘blue sky thinking’, but it was ‘scaled’ high enough to shake some grounds of sanity when words like ‘predictors of beaconicity’, ‘coterminosity’ and ‘double devolution’ were heard. Your friendly jargon density checker is ‘driven’ by a custom list of 200 words to avoid in formal business and corporate writing. Maybe not avoid, but at least know that you are using terms that can switch off minds as fast as one could possibly do to those designer bulbs of innovation...
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The not-webby website rankings – India industry

Remember the 1990s style websites? Hyperlinking then was the equivalent of today’s social sharing. And proud felt the sites that displayed blue underlined text. 2015 is a far distance from then, and I thought it would be befitting to take a glance at how websites look and feel in the Indian corporate space. (About the Webby, only 344 websites made it to their list this year, out of a total of 926,530,422 sites worldwide. I wonder if they actually had a look at all of them.) So here are my perceptions, taken in a breeze, of some of the websites in India’s manufacturing, capital goods and heavy industry sectors. The companies are from the current list comprising the respective BSE/NSE sector indices. As will be obvious, the review comments are an outcome of very brief, fleeting impressions, as doing a detailed review was beyond scope. The perspective is of a general, educated reader (not the prime target audience of these websites who would...
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Jargon is king, wants to conquer every written territory

Or give them a headache. Or leave a bad taste in the mouth. People who are doing this are not on Facebook or Buzzfeed or writing on fashion and lifestyle blogs. This kind of business speak is the norm in an awful lot of websites of businesses and industries. It’s shorthand and generic. Like ‘key competencies’, ‘enhanced quality’ and ‘optimized solutions’. Sounds sweet? Just two words doing the work of at least ten. After all, they said brevity was the highest mark of craftsmanship in writing, didn’t they? The damage adjectives can do But they also said, ‘kill adjectives’. Key, enhanced, optimized – they pump in a whole lot of air. I collected a lot of such terms, called jargon (in its avoidable version), while recently doing a light review of nearly fifty manufacturing and heavy industry websites. Most of these terms occurred on the About Us pages. The list is given at the end of this article. Complaining against jargon has become old hat, I know....
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