Writing and Formatting
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I just read a good post on Gadetopia about writing skills and had a small correction to offer. Go read it and come back (and read the two linked posts about Word and Frontpage use). I’ll wait.
My correction is to Deane’s list of “really poorly-formatted text” he sees over and over — he actually has two lists:
Really poorly-formatted text
- No concept of whitespace
- No awareness of how images should be positioned
- A desire to center every heading, title, and subtitle
- Attempts to “hack” horizontal whitespace with tabs and consecutive spaces
- Overly large tables without headings, captions, or consistent spacing
Really poorly-written text
- No use of headings
- No use of bulleted or numbered lists
- Overuse of underlining and boldface
- Paragraphs that are way too long for the Web
- No awareness of the difference between a line break and a paragraph break
- No awareness of what terms should be hyperlinked, and where they should link
Writing well is hard, especially for a young medium like the web where we’re still figuring out what works on top of the fact that most people never actually learn to write well. I saw a letter a few days ago that read “You have been selected for a process called VERIFICATION. Verification is a process by which we are required to verify certain information you submitted on your FAFSA application.” Formatting is not that writer’s first problem.
Additionally, writing on a computer requires thinking about structure and form in a way that’s wholly alien to writing longhand or on a typewriter. On those, what you see is all you get. What you see on a computer is a representation of some content controlled by generally invisible metadata. Today’s kids are still being taught by the typewriter generation, so it’s going to be at least another twenty years before the kids who grew up with an understanding of this duality start teaching to the kids who won’t believe it could be any other way.