Email, discussion groups, blogs and wikis. Informal Writing

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  • Email, discussion groups, blogs and wikis. Informal Writing
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  • > So, for those of you in the tech sector, what kind of writing do you do as part of your job? Subtle but politically charged emails and reports which will be circulated via mailing list to higher-ups that make it clear what the problem is without explicitly blaming anyone who will get hostile over it. - Dan Johnson
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  • > At what skills do you find your fellow colleagues sadly lacking? The ability to make vast wastelands of (nonetheless important!) data look formatted and attractive enough to wade through. I hate the form- over-content marketing crowd, but people, a few headings and some table layout will make your results so much easier to understand. Doug Jones
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  • Big Blocks O Text Frequently, the recipients of long documents, rather than analyze the entire document carefully, have a tendency to simply read the first little bit. This can be particularly true of documents sent via email. Sometimes, this syndrome can be alleviated by turning longer blocks of text into shorter lists of individual points. Even simple things like white space between list items can help draw attention to each underlying idea.
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  • Listifying Sometimes, document recipients just read the first bit. This is particularly true of emails. Putting the key points in a list can help. Putting them in a big block of text does not. The empty spaces between the bullet points make the list look even simpler.
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  • Responding to an email First questions: How many people are getting a copy of this message? How closely are they paying attention? Are you responding to: An original email? A response to a previous email? One of many responses to an ongoing group discussion? How closely are you paying attention?
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  • The easy stuff Simple correspondence with one other person: Read his or her email carefully. Respond as seems appropriate. Be both clear and polite if something can be misread as hostile, it frequently will be. Email is typically brief and direct. Brief and direct is easy to misread as angry, dismissive, or insulting.
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  • The self-explanatory stuff Dont email when youve won an argument. Dont email when youve lost an argument. Dont email angry. Dont email at 2:00am. Dont email drunk.
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  • Multiple-recipient email Even if youre just responding to one persons statements, you have an audience. Dont say it in email if you wouldnt say it in a meeting room where you knew you were being recorded. The larger the recipient list, the more opportunities there are for words to be misinterpreted or taken out of context.
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  • CC vs. BCC Courtesy Copy and Blind Courtesy Copy Originally stood for Carbon Copy and Blind Carbon Copy CC list is available to all recipients BCC list is not available to all recipients Often used as an anti-spam measure in large lists Preserves confidentiality Sometimes causes problems when recipients dont know what is or isnt sensitive information
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  • Top Posting: Posting a response above the original email Your response: Sarahs ideas show a lot of potential. I think the additional functionality would be worth the added complexity of the UI. Original message: >So, what do you think about Sarahs new proposals? Theyd make our product more versatile, but marketing thinks the necessary changes to the UI would make the learning curve too high for new customers.
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  • Top Posting worst case scenario Your response: Sarahs ideas show a lot of potential. I think the additional functionality would be worth the added complexity of the UI. The (whole) original message: >Hi everyone. Great meeting today I think we really brought up some crucial issues to address before product launch. Id like to schedule another such meeting for Wednesday of next week. Does that cause scheduling problems with anyone else? >So, what do you think about Sarahs new proposals? Theyd make our product more versatile, but marketing thinks the necessary changes to the UI would make the learning curve too high for new customers. >Julie Wilson >Product Manager >Kobayashi, Inc. >(831)555-4857 >~~~ Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. Albert Einstein ~~~
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  • Bottom Posting: Posting a response beneath the original email Original message: >So, what do you think about Sarahs new proposals? Theyd make our product more versatile, but marketing thinks the necessary changes to the UI would make the learning curve too high for new customers. Your response: Sarahs ideas show a lot of potential. I think the additional functionality would be worth the added complexity of the UI.
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  • Interlaced Posting >So, what do you think about Sarahs new proposals? Sarahs ideas show a lot of potential. >Theyd make our product more versatile, but marketing thinks the necessary changes to the UI would make the learning curve too high for new customers. I think the additional functionality would be worth the added complexity of the UI.
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  • Interlaced vs. Bottom posting Interlaced: Pro: Can address individual points specifically. Can be less ambiguous. Con: Can accidentally separate sections from a larger context. Can look somewhat untidy, or difficult to read. Bottom Posting: Pro: Can deliver a more cohesive overall message. Con: Can take longer for a reader to get to that message.
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  • In Defense of Top Posting: Is the recipient list a small group of people? Are they clearly focused on the matter at hand? Then top posting can be the most efficient type of response.
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  • Blog Writing Expositional narratives How I solved this problem, as a drama. Highlights real life problems and real solutions Can help frame seemingly technical issues as general interest ones.
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  • Blog Writing Tutorial Blog Writing Before you start this project, youll need to get some basic safety equipment: a fire extinguisher, welding gloves, and some goggles. (All can be bought at your local hardware store.) Youll also need a roll of heavy duty duct tape ($6.95) Use conversational, not formal language.
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  • Conversational vs. Formal Writing Formal "This project is to delineate what type of plants survive in specific planetary environments. For each planet, a plant will be designed. The goal is to learn what type of roots, stem, and leaves allow the plant to survive in each environment. Some hints are provided throughout the program."
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  • Conversational "You are about to start a journey where you will be visiting different planets. For each planet, you will need to design a plant. Your mission is to learn what type of roots, stem, and leaves will allow your plant to survive in each environment. I will be guiding you through by giving out some hints." (Examples from Kathy Sierras Conversational Writing Kicks Formal Writings Ass.)
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  • Bottom line: talk to your audience Consider your recipient list, or potential visitors to your blog. Showing off your advanced knowledge is good, but so is remembering and retelling your early mistakes. Experienced readers will typically commiserate with your failures. New readers will learn from them.
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  • Editing Wikis See: Wikipedia: Editing a page Minor edits: spelling, grammar, slight formatting changes. Not changes to content, even minor changes. Major edits: can include changing even a single word, if that changes the entrys content.
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  • Major edits Create an edit summary Note what youve changed, and why Make note of summary limitations Example: Wikipedia has a 200 character limit. Follow the appropriate Style Guide If youre changing, but not replacing, an existing entry: Try to match the style of the previous author.
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  • Any questions?