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Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,219 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Redish has done her homework and created a thorough overview of the issues in writing for the Web. Ironically, I must recommend that you read her every word so that you can find out why your customers won't read very many words on your website -- and what to do about it.

-- Jakob Nielsen, Principal, Nielsen Norman Group

"There are at least twelve billion web pages out there.
Paperback, 365 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Morgan Kaufmann Publishers (first published 2007)
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Erin Boyington
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lately I've been reading lots of business-type books. Many contain little actual content aside from one or two snappy ideas.

This book, however, is so densely packed with useful, sensible information that it took me ages to finish. I have pages of notes, and will likely go back to review the examples when I need inspiration to get me unstuck.

The author follows her own advice in making this book readable, scannable, and incredibly useful no matter what stage you are at in designing a website. I es
Julia Kulgavchuk
Much of the content of this 2007 book is timeless, but unfortunately the book as a whole can't be called timeless: the technology of that time shows through too much. Another issue is the depth: now in 2016 the book is very far from being a comprehensive guide; the topics have been covered much deeper elsewhere.

What is highly relevant still is the content-first approach to design, in 2016 not yet being recognized widely enough. The user-centered approach to writing (speak the language of your u
Matthew Edward
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks-i-own
Janice Redish does an excellent job of guiding her readers through every stage of writing user-friendly Web content.

Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works addresses all elements of audience-focused content creation, including:

- Writing Web-friendly copy
- Site structure
- User-friendly design
- Information formatting

Big picture considerations (such as the audience you are writing for) are given as much attention as the crucial details of proper text formatting conventions.

Nov 17, 2011 rated it did not like it
This was probably one of the most idiotic textbooks I've ever been asked to use, so I will likely be selling this back because I not only got nothing out of it, but it also didn't really elaborate on anything that could have probably benefited readers. There was nothing in here that I didn't already know about writing for the web or web design. By the end of the book, she covers a lot of material without really going in depth or explaining her points. She just briefly touches on something and th ...more
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book, Letting Go of Words, was a real help to me. I come in from print media and this book helped me shape my mind for web writing. I recommend it to anyone interested in slimming down your word count, but at the same time getting your message out there.
Karen Mardahl
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is for the 2012 edition.

Anyone doing any kind of web writing or technical communication or remotely connected with either should stop now and go buy this book. You need it. OK?

I bought the 2007 edition and never got around to properly reading it! As a friend said, when I sat down to properly read this, I would nod at everything because I already knew it.
Well, yes, I did, but the thing is, I don't always remember the whys and wherefores when doing things. I think it is because I have been th
Book Calendar
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Franck Chauvel
Janice explains use how to write web content that does not drive your readers away. The core idea is simple: Write the conversation you would have if your reader was in front of you. Answer questions, use active voice, use plain language, etc. She also details a 'grand' strategy for larger groups: define a content strategy and test usability often, as often as you reasonably can.

In my view, the book reads well. I think the advices about writing style can also be found—with more details probably—
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have to write any sort of online content but you're more used to writing in an academic, business or personal style, this is the book for you. It's also a great book if you have the job of editing (or just chopping the word count) other people's writing and don't want to offend them!

Redish explains the differences between the way people read reports or books and the way they read a website. Visitors to your website will skim and seek until they find the information they're looking for, ra
Aaron Gertler
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Judging by the reviews here, this isn't a good read for full-time professional web writers.

Fortunately, I'm only a freelance web writer, and I loved "Letting Go of the Words". The author writes like she tells you to write. Each chapter ends with a beautiful one-page summary; if you take a picture of each summary page, you can skim through the photos every few months and get back up to speed on the book. The sample websites Redish edits in front of you feel realistic: We've all seen content, writ
Matty Pants
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks-i-own
Janice Redish does an excellent job of guiding her readers through every stage of writing user-friendly Web content.

Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works addresses all elements of audience-focused content creation, including:

- Writing Web-friendly copy
- Site structure
- User-friendly design
- Information formatting

Big picture considerations (such as the audience you are writing for) are given as much attention as the crucial details of proper text formatting conventions.

Sep 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: tech
I hoped for a comprehensive batch of guidelines for writing good content for the web. What I got was a rehash of what I had already known from other sources, plus a tiny bit of new stuff - maybe 10 or 15 pages total.

This book focuses almost solely on usability - and on usability of public-purpose websites, government sites, informational sites, and the like. There's pretty much nothing about e-commerce. There's nothing about SEO - usability guidelines for content writing often conflict with SEO
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nilibrary
As an author, I was already pretty grounded in a lot of the ideas that Redish draws from.

However. This book is solid, solid, solid. If you write anything {not just web content} for anyone else to read--emails, blogs, Facebook event descriptions, memoirs--read this book. It's never boring and full of clear examples that demonstrate how bad can go to good, and how good can go to great.

This is not a book about good grammar. This is a book about good communication. Useful, concise, and unapologetic,
Web Webster
Jun 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: beginning copywriters
Executive summary:

-Info should be chunked (lede sentence and 3 bullets)
-write to your reader's expectations.
-Know who your reader is and, most importantly, what headspace they're occupying when they read your site. Buying? Shopping? Info-grazing? Researching?

Useful for the links to other sites that do (and don't do) well the points being illustrated in the book.

Shorter on research and similarly useful info that can be used internally when jockeying for major changes in the way the site communica
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Update: I just read the second edition. Redish did a fantastic job, updating, revising and 'letting go' of stuff that would change before a third edition. Great job!
I've been a Ginny Redish fan for a long time. The best supervisor I ever had lived by Ginny's recommendations. While I don't agree with every recommendation in this book, I agree with most of them. This is a great reference book. And its also worth reading cover-to-cover. Overall Ginny has good ideas
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
A good, quick, well organized book on writing for the Web. Individual chapters would be a great resource for those teaching Web writing.

I love the grab and go concept. And charts and checklists that I can easily share with my communications team are very helpful.

It's amazing how quickly the examples in the book look dated. Hopefully time for another edition soon!

Redish also spoke at a conference I recently attended, with a focus on plain language, proving that the information and approaches pr
Curtis Newbold
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used this book for the first time in my undergraduate Web Design & Site Development course. Redish's book is wonderfully accessible and full of useful and effective examples, both good and bad. For a textbook, it reads fast and uses a successful organization for each chapter, both of which my students seemed to appreciate. Towards the end of the book some of the content is repetitive ("use the user's words!"), but it doesn't affect the book's overall quality. I WILL use this textbook again, an ...more
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
I was excited to come home to a box from Amazon this afternoon with two new books inside, including Letting Go of the Words. I flipped through this and think it will be an excellent resource for my staff to keep them thinking about how to creatively use content to create usable web pages. There's lots of good "dos and don'ts" illustrations and examples. Plus, it has a forward written by "Don't Make Me Think" author Steve Krug. I'll keep reading and report back.
I thought parts of this book were very helpful. Some of it seemed unrelated to the thesis of the book, though, which is why I only gave it 3 stars. Web content design and usability are of great interest to me, so I had already read or talked about much of what this book discusses. One thing I found frustrating and unhelpful was how much she belabored certain points. I wanted something a bit more concise.
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Web content writers and editors
Shelves: 2012
This is one of, if not *the* best book on best practices for web content. I mainly use it as a reference book, but last year I decided to read it cover to cover to see if I'd missed anything. This book doesn't contain anything new for folks with a background in content usability, but it's an invaluable resource when working with people who're just encountering that concept for the first time. I felt like I was receiving a nice refresher course from Ginny every time I dipped into it.
Joshua Pitzalis
Jul 18, 2015 rated it liked it
This book has a cult following. I asked around for books to help me learn how to write for the web and this book would be mentioned without fail. Reading it in 2015, it is hopelessly outdated. Most of the links in the book no longer work. Some of the principles are great but most of them speak about an internet that no longer exists. It was written in 2007, but the internet has changed so drastically that I don't think its worth reading any more.
Margaret Heller
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology
This is a really helpful book. I have to return it to the library, so I had to skim parts that I would rather have read closely. It's not telling you anything you don't already know or suspect if you work on the web, but lots of nice examples and checklists to make sure you aren't forgetting anything.
Junda Ong
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
There are too much unnecessary stuff that are not to do with good writing. Disappointed with the content.

Only a few good points about writing that I remembered:
- Gender neutral wring. Use "you", plural, "the/a/an" and verb phase.
- Use active voice instead of passive
- "who does what to whom" instead of "object .. by .."
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: on-language, tc
Thankfully, this book transcends evolving interwebz technologies and it's a decent enough primer. It is, however, very high-level. Read it if you know nothing about optimizing content for the web, or if you're bored and feeling inconsequential and need a reminder that you really already do know everything and are still just as smart as you used to be.
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
How to write web-friendly copy for users who don't read: short sentences and bullet points with occasional bolding. For a book about cutting down wordiness, it's surprisingly wordy! Good advice but probably intuitive or understood if you already write (or read) any web content. A good place to start if you're new to writing for the web, though.

Alice Chau-Ginguene
If you are writing ANYTHING on the Internet for business - website, Facebook post, tweet (!) blog, etc...
You NEED to read this book.
It opens your eyes to see what writing on the Internet is NOT writing at all! It's communicating, it's talking to your audience with words.
I can't wait to put all I learn in use! A revamp of my business website is much needed!
Jul 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ginny has perfectly laid out effective web writing that more people should follow! Be sure to pick up this book if you are a web designer OR even someone who is curious how to write online as a novice. Excellent!
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
To be fair, I didn't read this book, I only scanned it; however, I didn't see anything ground-breaking in it. I love Reddish, but this just seemed like a rehash of the stuff we hear all the time in this profession.
May 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Easy to read with many examples and plain language. Some aspects of the book didn't entirely relate to the project I was working on, but that was fine; the book was really helpful in trying to understand usability more. Loved all the examples!
Bill Harrison
Dec 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Some good advice here for those with no experience writing web content. But the book is pretty simplistic and much of the advice amounts to common sense. A good primer for the first-time web author. Too basic for nearly everyone else.
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