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[At this point, I usually do a short demonstration of Trellix, and show how its features help writing this type of document. See the product section of the Trellix Corporation site, www.trellix.com, for info on Trellix.]

Good Documents Can Be Written
   Need to use techniques that make more readable and skimmable documents when read on-screen
   Need tools appropriate to the task, such as Trellix
   Needs to be discussion and experimentation on good writing for on-screen reading


We as an industry should be discussing the techniques necessary to make readable business documents, not just eyeball-renting web-sites. In forums like this and in the press, there has been a shameful neglect of such dialog.

Some techniques will have to be invented, like when we went from scrolls to bound books. A that point, somebody came up with ways to navigate through long documents, inventing page numbers, headers, footers, and tables of contents. Other techniques can be borrowed from existing areas.

Borrowing from what we all know is good. It eases the transition while we invent and test the new.

So what do we already know about that we can borrow from here? Obviously not just from entertaining web-sites.

Well, we all read newspapers and know a bit about how they are written. They are great examples. [I hold up a newspaper.] I can give you almost any good newspaper in the country, and ask you to find something, and you can do it without reading the whole thing. For example, how did the Chicago Bulls do last night, or what's the political leanings of this paper. You know where to go and how to find the answer. Reports should only be that easy to read.

Borrowing From Newspapers
   Separate articles
   Sections
   Headlines & Leads: Well written summaries
   Inverted Pyramid: Summary first
   "Above the Fold": What you see at first glance


Newspapers use techniques like many separate articles and sections. They use headlines and leads. (Leads are the first sentence or two that tell you what the article is about.) Links should be written like that: both a head and a lead at the link site so you know whether or not you want to follow a link before you click. No "Should we do the acquisition? Click here." Rather "We should do the acquisition because it will save us money." And newstories are written as an inverted pyramid. The summary is first, the details last. Newspapers have the concept of above the fold and below the fold. We can borrow that as above the scroll and below the scroll. And there's much more.

For more information about these ideas, see my "Good Documents" web-site (www.gooddocuments.com).

People are afraid that writing in a web-style means they have to learn a whole new way of writing. This is not true, they already know many of the techniques, they've been reading them in newspapers and on the web and CDs for years, they just need to know when to use them.

But can you really apply old stuff to the new? Isn't the Internet all new, nothing like it? What about the Wired "attitude" it's new, isn't it? No. Even the Internet attitude isn't new. Let's go back to the American Revolution. Bernard Bailyn wrote 30 years about about some of the pamphlets of the 1700's saying:

Revolutionary "Attitude"
The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

Bernard Bailyn, 1967

"...[they were] what might be called chain-reacting personal polemics... A bold statement on a sensitive issue was often sufficient to start such a series, which characteristically proceeded with increasing shrillness... Thus East Apthorp's tract of 1763...inflaming as it did New Englanders' fears...was answered at once...and then...a melee of thrusts and counterthrusts."

"[The pamphlets' style was] of satire... parody... [and] sarcasm..."


"...[they were] what might be called chain-reacting personal polemics... A bold statement on a sensitive issue was often sufficient to start such a series, which characteristically proceeded with increasing shrillness... Thus East Apthorp's tract of 1763...inflaming as it did New Englanders' fears...was answered at once...and then...a melee of thrusts and counterthrusts."

"[The pamphlets' style was] of satire... parody... [and] sarcasm..."

They had "flame wars" in the 1700's and Bailyn used the term in the 1960's!

Web-style writing will be a natural progression from things we've done on paper, though not just a direct, mechanical translation.

Need Active Discussion
   To advance the use of Intranets we must develop the best ways to express all business documents
   We need a dialog in the industry as we experiment and test
   What new tools and techniques do we need?


So let the dialog about bringing web-documents to the office begin. Let us talk not just about serving customers, but also about communicating ideas within our companies and to our colleagues.

Imagine if the masters of the past had the tools of today:

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