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Marc Duane AndersonCrawford Kilian's book on writing for the Internet benefits from his refreshing approach: Rather than coming across as an expert, Kilian aims to spark ideas and open dialogue. If what he has to offer helps, he's pleased, but he also hopes to be "rebutted and superseded."
With dot-coms folding like a cheap deck of cards these days, the subject is more timely than ever, because quality content can mean the difference between life and death for a Web site.
The book is a carefully crafted and well-written dissertation on how and what to write for the World Wide Web. The increasingly competitive and crowded Web's users demand text that will grab them and hold their attention, or they'll simply click and surf away.
Kilian sums up the task at hand well when he says, "Your role as a Web author is to make your reader's job effortless." He endorses text that looks "invitingly brief," but at the same time, lures readers with some kind of hook so they'll keep reading.
The book is loaded with useful tips and strategies, including how to use white space effectively; "chunk" information (present it in small, digestible chunks); make sure graphics enhance, rather than distract from the message; maintain a "you" (the reader) focus; appreciate the value of minimalism, coherency, and consistency; and avoid the use of extended metaphors, because they don't work in hypertext.
And, of course, there are the old standbys that need to be heard again and again: Know your audience; make sure text is clear, brief and useful; understand the importance of proofreading; and so on.
In other practical advice, Kilian recommends that if you're using all caps you scale down the font size to avoid the pretension of overkill that might annoy readers and drive them away; while other suggestions include selecting a readable font and a line length that is both user- and printer-friendly.
Perhaps most valuable is the strategic planning Kilian prescribes since, "Web writing, like chess, means you have to think several moves ahead-and put yourself in your readers' shoes."
The book also contains many "links" to other valuable resources and is a must-read for anyone thinking of plying the writing trade in cyberspace. My only regret is the book isn't available in a downloadable PDF format!
—Marc Duane Anderson reviews books for American Book Review, Canadian Literature and The Writer.