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Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works (Interactive Technologies) 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0123694867
ISBN-10: 0123694868
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Redish has done her homework and created a thorough overview of the issues in writing for the Web. Ironically, I must recommend that you read her every word so that you can find out why your customers won't read very many words on your website -- and what to do about it."

-- Jakob Nielsen, Principal, Nielsen Norman Group

“There are at least twelve billion web pages out there. Twelve billion voices talking, but saying mostly nothing. If just 1% of those pages followed Ginny’s practical, clear advice, the world would be a better place. Fortunately, you can follow her advice for 100% of your own site’s pages, so pick up a copy of Letting Go of the Words and start communicating effectively today.”

--Lou Rosenfeld, co-author, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

Book Description

Ginny Redish, the technical communication guru, gives the most practical and useful advice about writing for the web.
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Product Details

  • Series: Interactive Technologies
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Morgan Kaufmann; 1 edition (June 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0123694868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0123694867
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Chris F. Willis on September 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My company is a consultancy that creates interactive learning programs for large corporations. I am especially interested in blending the best practices of instructional design/performance support, technical communication, and web site design. For the latter, this book is an indispensible resource!

I shared the book with our Content Director, who, at first, was too busy to really pay any attention to it. Once he cracked the cover, he immediately wrote me back and raved! The book compiles so many of the basic concepts that he and I desire our entire writing team to incorporate into their projects.

We purchased multiple copies and assigned one chapter to each of our team to present to the team as a whole. These weekly presentations have been refresher for some, but new material for others, and now we are finally all level-set on basic writing/presentation concepts for online delivery. Hooray!

Only negative feedback I can give is that I did hear a bit of grumbling that the author broke her own rules in a couple places - using a few headings that were too long, for example, when there is a chapter specifically on writing good headings. I should probably have docked the rating a bit for that stuff, but overall we got so much good from this little book that I feel I must give it full praise!
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[Update at bottom] Letting Go of the Words is a terrific book with respect to site structure and usability, but is extremely inadequate in regards to Search Engine Optimization and content that actually sells.

Dr. Redish's experience with web content is largely related to government agencies. In that respect, I couldn't ask for a better book on the basics of site structure and usability. The author presents a solid primer on helping your visitors find the information they seek as easily as possible.

The book, however, largely ignores issues that are important to business websites that wish to rank well on Google and other search engines. As an SEO guru, I was surprised that a book on writing web content completely ignores the fact that Google absolutely loves keyword-rich content. While some web purists believe in designing sites as though search engines never existed, it's impractical to cut short the very content that would ultimately deliver visitors to your site.

Government sites will generally rank well by virtue of their number of (quality) inbound links. Business owners aren't looking to simply provide information, they're looking to get traffic and motivate visitors to perform an action (purchase, contact, subscribe). Some of her tips ("don't embed links" - chapter 12) are in opposition to what designers should do to encourage Google to "spider" relevant pages and categorize them better in its results.

If this book teaches you the architectural skills of constructing a physical store that's easy to get around, it does so without mentioning how to encourage walk-ins to buy your products, nor how to get them from the street into your business.
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Everyone who writes web content will benefit from reading this book with its clear guidelines and extensive examples. The book is well organized and its format makes it easy to find specific ideas.

However, this book will be most useful for writers working on information sites. The book presents only limited discussion and examples for e-commerce sites and does not address important issues for those sites, such as guiding customers to a sale or writing for search engine optimization.
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i've read several books and countless articles on how to write well for the web. Ginny Redish nails it perfectly. This is hands-down the best book on writing for the web out there. The book is beautifully laid-out, with easy to grasp, common sense advice - all backed up by solid research data and straightforward examples.

If you're a fan of usability, good user-centered design, and easy-to-read helpful books, and you'd like to improve your site's performance with better writing, definitely get this book. I'm already reworking the content on my sites with many of Ginny's suggestions, and I have no doubt my readers will be happy.
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Writing for the Web is not like writing a college term paper -- or even print ads. It takes understanding what your audience is seeking when they come to your website and presenting it in a manner that allows them to find it easily. Letting Go of the Words is a brilliant, easy-to-read book that explains how you can write usable copy for projects of any size.

Redish writes about the difference between the three major types of pages and what should be on them (and what shouldn't).

1. Home pages
2. Pathway pages
3. Information pages

She also gives useful advice on
* Focusing on your essential message
* Making your design easy to use
* Using lists and tables
* Using headings and illustrations effectively
* Writing links that get clicked, and perhaps most importantly,
* Fitting this all into a process that allows you to set expectations and meet deadlines.

Anyone involved with building websites (or writing blogs) can find value in this book. I learned a lot from it, and I think you would, too. I strongly recommend it.
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