Working Backwards

“The two-page (or one-page) mock press release format is also a writing genre common to Amazon, although it’s less often discussed than the six-page memo. What’s interesting to me about Limp’s invocation of the six-page memo in this Decoder interview is that 1) he describes how the two writing forms are, at least for his group, a combined genre and especially 2) how the memo has actually become a roadmap for product development. In short, the Devices group not infrequently begins with the press release, expands into the six-page narrative memo, and uses that document as a tool to decide which new products to develop and release.”

-Tim Carmody, “Working Backwards: Dave Limp on Amazon’s Six Page Memo.” The Amazon Chronicles. October 12, 2021.

Related to the Write: More Frequently, Less Long post from yesterday. The one, two and six page memo strikes me as an interesting model, where we take the less long pieces and start merging them together into single pages and than up to six. Of course, there’s no need to stop there, but I think the six page discipline would probably improve everyone’s writing considerably.

Interactive Fiction: ink & inklewriter, et al.

“* inklewriter is an easy-to-use online tool to write basic interactive stories.

* ink by comparison is a more powerful narrative scripting language that is primarily designed for professional game development, though it can also be used to write and share choice-based interactive fiction. It is also surprisingly easy to learn, though for ease of use it’s hard to beat inklewriter!

https://www.inklestudios.com/ink/

h/t to Interconnected and the post “Filtered for some text-based virtual realities.” I could have easily made posts for

The whole post is gold for anyone interested in what’s going on and the tools in current use with the interactive fiction community. My knowledge of the tools stopped at Inform 7.

Newsletters & The Web

“My friend Lucy once told me that she falls in love with the way that someone thinks…and that’s what newsletters make possible for me; they’re a record of how strangers see the world…[But] I guess there’s something about newsletters that bugs me, and I can’t put my finger on it…[proceeds to put finger on it, i.e., newsletters are easy to write, notify people of new work and provide a way to pay for content, which are all things they web should do and doesn’t.]

—Robin Rendle, “Newsletters; or, an enormous rant about writing on the web that doesn’t really go anywhere and that’s okay with me.” RobinRendle.com. January 1, 2021.

I agree with everything Robin Rendle writes in this essay. And I appreciated the irony that when I wanted to subscribe to his site’s RSS feed, I learned he probably doesn’t have one. He is using netlify, which has some github projects that can generate RSS for a netlify site, but probably not given how his site is set-up without trying to rewrite plug-in code. I guess we can call this Exhibit A for the point he is making?

Karst Stone Paper

“Made from 100% sustainably recycled stone, and without any bleaches or acids, Karst Stone Paper™ is rebuilt from first principles to be better than wood-pulp paper: more durable, more sustainable, and infinitely smoother to write, scribble, doodle or draw on. If there’s a better way to make paper, we haven’t found it.”

https://www.karststonepaper.com/

Why We Will Lowercase white

“There was clear desire and reason to capitalize Black. Most notably, people who are Black have strong historical and cultural commonalities, even if they are from different parts of the world and even if they now live in different parts of the world. That includes the shared experience of discrimination due solely to the color of one’s skin.

There is, at this time, less support for capitalizing white. White people generally do not share the same history and culture, or the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color

—John Daniszewski, “Why we will lowercase white.” Associated Press. July 20, 2020.

How to Write Great Microcopy

  • Be clear, concise, and useful
  • Use consistent wording
  • Create a microcopy framework
  • Be conversational
  • Use humors and idioms carefully
  • Highlight your brand’s character
  • Be wary of word translations
  • (Almost) always use active voice
  • Use the passive voice (sometimes)
  • Provide context
  • Assume your user is smart
  • Keep it scannable
  • Write short paragraphs an sentences
  • Don’t overuse contractions
  • When to use sentence case
  • When to use title case
  • Capitalize proper names & terms
  • When to use “Your”
  • When to use “My”
  • Keep ’em calm
  • Refer to the user
  • Identify interactive elements
  • Start with verbs
  • Prompt action
  • Motivate action
  • Set expectations
  • Instruct action
  • Show progress during action
  • Give feedback after actions
  • Use constructive feedback model
  • Avoid destructive feedback
  • Create positive moments
  • Pair visuals with words
  • Be consistent with imagery
  • Use familiar words and phrases
  • Spell out numbers up to nine
  • Reassure users with social proof
  • Pick the right moments
  • Test and improve
  • Think: “How can I improve your life?”

h/t The Product Person.

I have no doubt this is good advice for “microcopy”, which seems to be the text involved with software interactions. But, I think there is an interesting contrast to advice offered in posts like “English Split Composition“. Is “microcopy” good writing outside of writing human/computer interactions in software? Is it “good” writing, in other contexts? When you think of someone like Ernest Hemingway, initially disciplined by the telegraph, that turned into his style, can taking that further into “microcopy” lead to good communication or even good art?

English Split Composition

“English is a language built mostly out of two others. Much of it was created out of the language of invaders who came to Britain around 450 ad from Anglia and Saxony (in what we’d now call northern Germany). About 600 years later the French invaded and brought their language with them, too; it was derived from Latin. The new French competed with Old English, and the outcome was a language—modern English—built out of both.

Often words with similar meanings from the two languages were both turned into English words, such as make (Saxon) and create (from French), or need (Saxon) and require (from French). So in English you can say almost anything with two kinds of words: short, simple ones with Saxon origins, or fancier ones that come from Latin.”

-Ward Farnsworth, “What Did Lincoln Know About Language That We Don’t?” Reason.com. June 22, 2020.

Write Until There Is Nothing Wrong With It

“The process of imbuing every sentence with “minimum elegance and euphony,” [Amis] says in the clip above (drawn from a longer interview viewable here) involves “saying the sentence, subvocalizing it in your head until there’s nothing wrong with it. This means not repeating in the same sentence suffixes and prefix. If you’ve got a confound, you can’t have a conform. If you’ve got invitation, you can’t have execution. You can’t repeat those, or an –ing, or a –ness: all that has to be one per sentence. I think the prose will give a sort of pleasure without you being able to tell why.”

—Colin Marshall, “Martin Amis Explains His Method for Writing Great Sentences.” OpenCulture.com. June 24, 2020