On this page you can find links to my recent occasional emails, sent out by Mailchimp, and a few titbits from earlier emails. They refer to tips from my blog and recommended books, articles and videos – anything to do with writing, websites and the internet.
Dear website, please tell me … April 2021
A surprising number of websites withhold information from users that would make them so much easier to use, principally prices and contact details. I compared revamping your website with building an airport and recommended a newsletter that follows the doings of the big tech companies.
Susannah’s tips for April 2021
How good are your Covid messages? November 2020
I looked at ways of making your Covid messages more effective, why writing is so hard, and other stories. As always, there’s an opportunity to buy my book, Writing for the Web. It was published a while ago, but the basics of writing good web content don’t change.
Susannah’s tips for November 2020
What to do in lockdown April 2020
The lockdown gave some of us the opportunity to look critically at our websites. So I came up with some things for writers to work on, while Jakob Nielsen had a suggestion for what web designers should work on during the lockdown:
Susannah’s tips for April 2020
I was again struck by how hard it is to write really short bits of copy, because they are so easily misunderstood. I was also shocked to read a report on the staggering amounts of energy being consumed by the internet:
Susannah’s tips for October 2019
After dealing with one of my pet hates, centred text, I recommended a podcast on a perennial question: Is Facebook damaging society? I threw in a few examples of verbal horrors, such as “impactful, and “leverage” as a verb, and tips for writing emails that people will read (which was a bit risky in a marketing email):
Susannah’s tips for July 2019
The recommendation in this email was the book From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, subtitled What you really need to know about the internet. The main tip was for writing headlines that entice. I also looked at how to deal with a nasty phishing email I’d received while on holiday:
Susannah’s tips for February 2019.
Some titbits from even earlier emails
Website security(April 2018)
The security of our data is in the news. Facebook is the one feeling the heat, leading a number of people to delete their accounts (I deleted mine when I discovered that I had somehow acquired more than 200 Burmese “friends”) or decide to live without it for a while. Thousands have joined a campaign called 99 Days of Freedom to see whether they can bear the withdrawal.
It’s not just Facebook. Almost any website that we use involves us giving away data. We may accept that it’s a necessary part of buying a flight from an airline website, for example, but what about other sites that ask you to fill in a contact form before they’ll have anything to do with you? I’ve been campaigning for years against websites that make you do things you don’t want to do – see Don’t make me… and Login walls again.
So I started drafting a blog post about how annoying contact forms are and how they might put users off a website. Then I was told by someone who hacks websites for a living, in order to improve their security, that contact forms can actually be dangerous. I rewrote the draft and my latest post asks What is a contact form for?
Abandon “click here” (July 2017)
“Click here” seems an obvious instruction to use on a website when you want to help people move from one page to another. However, a page on which several instances of the word “here” stand out is not very informative. Much better to make links of important words or phrases, so that the user skimming over your page sees instances of what you have to offer, such as “financial advice” or “training courses”.
Google looks at your links to see how relevant they are to what people are searching for, which is another reason to avoid uninformative terms such as “Click here” and “Read more”. Besides, anyone using a touch screen doesn’t click anyway.
Can an adjective be dangerous? (July 2017)
Like so many others, I was shocked by the Grenfell Tower fire in London last month and what it revealed about our social housing. Shortly after it happened, an expert on fire regulations raised the possibility that the misuse of language may have contributed to the disaster, prompting me to write a blog post about a potentially dangerous qualifying word.
How to complain (July 2017)
I’ve just fired off letters of complaint to two big companies. I get so cross with the way they treat their customers, in particular their computer-generated letters that never quite deal with the matter in hand. My car insurance company, for example, sends me letters saying “a change has been made”, regardless of whether the change is an increase in my premium or a refund they’re giving me because they made a mistake.
Writing letters of complaint does get things off one’s chest, but does it get results? I’m learning that getting cross mostly doesn’t. And that trying to be clever doesn’t either. The latter is one of the tips from someone who says she’s an expert in writing such letters, writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant. Have a look at Daphne’s advice on how to write a complaint.
In case you’re wondering, I did get an apology from my car insurer and a further refund.
How to increase the little grey cells (May 2017)
We’ve often been told that learning a new language may help us stave off dementia. Now an academic has evaluated the economic benefit to businesses and other organisations of employing people who speak more than one language. Dr Gabrielle Hogan-Brun’s book is called Linguanomics, about the market potential of multilingualism.
Read her article on why people who speak multiple languages make the best employees.
Sharpen up your written communications (May 2017)
I’ve recently been helping an international charity with their written communications, including proposals to funders. You may sometimes find it hard to rise above the mass of information at your fingertips. A sympathetic outsider can assess the effectiveness of whatever you write and help you get the important messages across.
See how I can help you with your written communications.