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Don't Make Me Think > Chapter 5 - Omit Needless Words

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Diamond Website Conversion (diamondwebsiteconversion) | 78 comments Mod
Krugg’s third law of usability is “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.”

Most of the words on a page serve no practical purpose, and are actually detracting from the usability of the page. More words equals more noise, which is a distraction that causes people to stop and think. Nobody wants to read a stack of paragraphs, but if they are there a visitor may feel that they are missing something important by just skimming.

Imagine how frustrated they would be if they decided to read the entire thing, and it was entirely happy talk, with no real content or value. Especially while writing for the web, sentences should be short and sweet. Words, also, should not be hard to understand or decode.

As a web designer your need to work cooperatively with the people who are going to be visiting your website, and set things up in a way that will best accommodate their actual usage of your site. How would you re-write the following paragraph to be as concise as possible? How many words are in your edited version?

“A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. Readers generally look to the first few sentences in a paragraph to determine the subject and perspective of the paragraph. That’s why it’s often best to put the topic sentence at the very beginning of the paragraph. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information.”
Example taken from http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets....


message 2: by Shelby (last edited Jul 31, 2010 08:09PM) (new)

Shelby (shelbysanchez) | 52 comments This is how I would rewrite their paragraph. That was one verbose sentence. I had a bit of trouble shortening it. It's a bit better...

“A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in the topic sentence. A topic sentence unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences. The topic sentence is usually at the very beginning of the paragraph to advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information."


message 3: by Marty (new)

Marty | 36 comments The first few sentences of a paragraph need to include your topic sentence. A topic sentence tells the reader the paragraph's single controlling idea. It unifies the content of the paragraph and directs the order of the sentences.


message 4: by Anne (new)

Anne | 51 comments I've likely gone overboard here. This is relevant to speedreading which advises you to read only the first and last sentences in a paragraph.

Here is my version: A topic sentence advises the readers of the subject being discussed in its paragraph. It should often be at the very beginning of the paragraph, unless there is a sentence providing background information.


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