Do news sites care about typos anymore?

Typos in online content are common in India. Each day you can spot at least a couple of typos even on leading news sites such as ToI and Hindu. What surprises me is that even NYT does that. Was shocked to see such a glaring error on its site. What’s worse is that even after a week, no one cared to correct it. Has NYT got rid of proofreader and copy editors to cut costs?

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 6.33.31 PM

 

Content Strategy for Startups

Many startups offer really good products or services. They spend a lot of time refining the product or services to offer the best to the customer. However, they fail miserably in conveying their innovation to the world. In other words, they do not have a content strategy that will help market their product easier, better and faster.

Where to start?

1. Talk to the reader – create a tone and personality for your website
Your website content reflects you and sets the tone for the readers. Your content can be cold or create a sense of warmth to your customers. If you are into B2C business, you can use some humour. The tone of the content also varies depending on the target audience – for example, you can have informal or casual content if your target is youth, the same may not work if your target is older people. So, set your tone right before you start creating the content.

2. Brevity – good things, when short, are twice as good
Keep your content crisp and to the point. On the website, readers don’t read the content, they just scan the page, and if they do not find what they want they may not visit your site again. So, you should have an idea as to what the reader would expect on that page and give relevant content, in minimum words.

3. Microcopy – the little big thing
The short text that tells you the character length of your password, the labels on the button you click, the popover that explain what the text field is – are few examples of microcopy. If you have an ecommerce site, the microcopy will make or break the deal. If the customer struggles to fill a form or make a payment, you will lose a customer. This is where microcopy comes to rescue.

Break your microcopy in to several section and start creating effective, crisp and consistent text that enhances the experience of your website. I will discuss this in detail in a separate blogpost

4. SEO – give some love to the search engines
You need not hire an SEO expert to do this. To get started, have the right keywords on your page titles on the website. By page title, I mean the title that shows on the header of the browser. For example, if you are a software testing company, then your page title should have software testing related keywords. Followed by this, you should have relevant content on each page of your website with relevant keywords. This is enough for search engines to crawl your site.

5. Digital Presence/Social Media – if it is not here, well it’s not anywhere
As a new business, you should shout online to make your presence felt. Start by taking part in conversations related to your business on Quora and LinkedIn, create your own blog and share your thoughts on your industry, create a presentation and post it on Slideshare, or a video on Youtube. Share all your content providing links on Twitter and if you are a B2C company, you should have a Facebook strategy.

Of course there will be many other ways to build your site with effective content. Share your thoughts and experience of how you built content for your startup.


Facebook fixes glaring errors in UI labels. Did they act on my feedback?

Sometime in December 2010, I wrote to Facebook about some errors in UI labels on Facebook homepage. Since I didn’t get any response or acknowledgement from FB, I decided to write to TechCrunch but again in vain.

In the old screen (see screenshots below, click to englarge), the login button was labeled as Login, which is wrong, because Login is a noun; the correct label should be Log In, which is the action verb. Similarly, Sign Out was labeled as Signout, which is again wrong.

However, the Signup button had the correct label (Sign Up) (see screenshot). So, there were errors and inconsistencies.

When I logged in yesterday a pleasant surprise awaited me. Yes, FB has fixed the errors that I had flagged earlier. See the old label Login has been changed to Log In and Signout has been changed to Sign Out.

Perhaps they would have received my feedback and made the corrections silently or someone else would have written to them. Anyway, good that it is fixed now. But am surprised how this error got through the UX and quality teams. More surprised that the usually alert grammarians and UX people in the US an UK didn’t notice this since the FB rollout.

Have you noticed similar or other UI errors on any other websites? Have questions on UI labeling? Would love to hear from you.

Two books that can significantly improve your grammar and writing skills

We all have fumbled and continue to when it comes to writing. Be it a simple email or a comprehensive business proposal or a complex project report, we all fret at times. English language is beautiful but twisty at times and the grammar is beyond comprehension for most of us Indians. Fear not, even the native English speakers find it difficult to write with perfect grammar.

Here are some books that will definitely help you improve your writing skills by leaps and bounds. The list is not only for novice but experienced writers also find it very useful.

1. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White. Fourth Edition.

This is a must-read and must-have book on every writer’s list. You can find the best explanation of basic rules of writing ever written. No, this is not a boring grammar book; it contains very informative chapters on rules and usage of  writing in English.

Here is what you can look forward to in this book:

  • - Eight rules of usage
  • - Ten rules of composition
  • - List of commonly misused/misspelled words
  • - Beautiful explanation on sentence structure and parallelism
  • - And many more.

Here is an example from the section “WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED”

Compare. To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances, between objects regarded as essentially of different order; to compare with is mainly to point out differences, between objects regarded as essentially of the same order. Thus life has been compared to a pilgrimage, to a drama, to a battle; Congress may be compared with the British Parliament. Paris has been compared to ancient Athens; it may be compared with modern London.

This book is carefully revised and polished over several editions. If you have a passion for clear and concise writing, go buy the book.

The book is also available free here.

2. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

This book has sold more than 1.5 million copies. Willaim Zinsser is writer, editor and teacher who has written 18 books so far, mostly on writing.

“Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon,” says Zinsser.

If you want a personal writing coach, this is the book. The first part of the book deals with principles, simplicity, usage, clutter and the audience.

The second part covers how to apply the learning in the first part – structuring sentences and paragraphs.

The third part covers different forms of writing – reporting, travel writing, science writing, etc.

To summarize, this book teaches you how to write for different audiences by adapting different tone and style in the writing.

How to write a clean business email/letter?

How to write a clean business letter?

Many people think using complex words make the content look better; however, readers always like simple text written to the point.

Here are some tips to write better.

  1. Capitalization – Always use proper capitalization. The first letter of proper names, that is, name of a person, place, or thing must always be in capital letter.

    Name of a person: Rajiv Kumar, Gopala Krishnan, Mike Smith

    Name of a place: Chennai, Los Angeles, Sydney, London.

    Name of a thing – Brand names. For example, Amul, Britannia, Coca Cola, etc.

2. Punctuations –  Do not overuse punctuations - Avoid using !!! and ???.

For example, Please find our brochure!!!, Are you looking for a software development centre in India???

3) Spell company names properly - Wrong or improper use of company names may annoy the reader. For example, Ibm, ibm ot Tcs,tcs. Instead write properly IBM, TCS..

4) Do not use too much of contractions or abbreviations.

Thanx, thnx, thnkx – Thank you or Thanks.

TIA – Thanks in advance

PFA – Please find attached

Contractions and abbreviations are ok in informal writing, but not in formal writing.

5) Write complete, short sentences. Many fragmented sentences may imply that you are unable to think and communicate coherently.

6) Convey one message per paragraph. Do not stuff all your message in a single paragraph.

7) Do not write long and redundant sentences. This is one of the most prevalent problems. Here is a list of some common redundant phrases used in business communication.

Instead of

Write

5 am in the morning

5 am

a total of 100 participants

100 participants

consensus of opinion

Consensus

cooperate together

Cooperate

each and every

Each

in spite of the fact that

Although

in the event that

If

particular interest

interest

period of four days

four days

refer back

refer

repeat again

repeat

return again

return

revert back

revert

summarize briefly

summarize

surrounding circumstances

circumstances

the future to come

the future