This article: about the growing popularity of the colon online. I found this little snippet more interesting though: how words and language usage can spread virally like content. Now: I’m going to stop using the colon for a bit.

So why is our writing suddenly peppered with colons? And where on earth did they come from?

Well, because the Internet is a place where things tend to go “viral.” Videos, songs, funny pictures of cats, forwarded emails, bad jokes–any information that can be transmitted digitally has the potential to snowball.

So, too, with words and acronyms. Have you ever told a friend you’d BRB? Ever LOL’d at a “FAIL”? If not, your child probably has. These words and clusters didn’t  exist in the early nineties, yet for the “text gen” they’re common currency. And, IMHO, they’re also tied to colons.

via The Millions : Colonoscopy: It’s Time to Check Your Colons.

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Stephen Fry is my all-time hero of language. I’m aware that he’s not as high-profile in the US as in the UK, so if you don’t know much about him, start by YouTubing A Bit of Fry And Laurie – where you might also spot a younger Dr. House.

Here he is, on the freedom that should be given to language:

But above all let there be pleasure. Let there be textural delight, let there be silken words and flinty words and sodden speeches and soaking speeches and crackling utterance and utterance that quivers and wobbles like rennet. Let there be rapid firecracker phrases and language that oozes like a lake of lava. Words are your birthright. Unlike music, painting, dance and raffia work, you don’t have to be taught any part of language or buy any equipment to use it, all the power of it was in you from the moment the head of daddy’s little wiggler fused with the wall of mummy’s little bubble. So if you’ve got it, use it. Don’t be afraid of it, don’t believe it belongs to anyone else, don’t let anyone bully you into believing that there are rules and secrets of grammar and verbal deployment that you are not privy to. Don’t be humiliated by dinosaurs into thinking yourself inferior because you can’t spell broccoli or moccasins. Just let the words fly from your lips and your pen.

Read the (very long) full article at Don’t Mind Your Language… « The New Adventures of Stephen Fry.

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Semi-automating content optimization:

So here’s something devilishly brilliant: The Huffington Post applies A/B testing to some of its headlines. Readers are randomly shown one of two headlines for the same story. After five minutes, which is enough time for such a high-traffic site, the version with the most clicks becomes the wood that everyone sees.

via How The Huffington Post uses real-time testing to write better headlines » Nieman Journalism Lab.

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Don’t cause problems for the almost 10% of people who suffer from some type of color deficiency, by avoiding these color combinations:

High Priority

  • Green and Red
  • Green and Brown
  • Blue and Purple
  • Green and Blue

Read the full list and more important tips at:  Quick Tips » We are Colorblind » Patterns for the Color Blind.

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Adam Sherk has used Google to search through millions of Press Releases, to find the most overused cliches and buzzwords. He identifies almost 100 terms, and I have to admit, I’ve used many of these. I should probably spend more time innovating my real-time sticky content.

Overused Terms

1. leader (161,000)

2. leading (44,900)

3. best (43,000)

4. top (32,500)

5. unique (30,400)

Read the full list at The Most Overused Buzzwords and Marketing Speak in Press Releases | Adam Sherk.

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An excellent piece from David Mitchell in The Observer:

By implying that it thinks content should be free for moral reasons, the Guardian website is playing an extremely dangerous game. It’s an approach which not only makes it hypocritical to charge for the printed newspaper and the iPhone app, but also gives hostages to fortune: what if the Murdoch paywall, or some other “micro-payment” system, starts to work? Are we to believe that the Guardian wouldn’t institute something similar?

Go and read the full thing at: Of course Rupert Murdoch’s evil, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

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Scott Berkun:

The better the writer, the better the job he/she does at anticipating questions or making sure the links are worth the cognitive cost of forcing the user to decide to click or stay.

All  choices writers make have cognitive tradeoffs. Readability, a simple filter that makes pages easier to read, is a surprisingly good alternative to many website and blog designs, but for the better writers on the web, it takes away more than it gives.

via The tradeoff of the hyperlink « Scott Berkun.

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Context Not Optional

09 Jul 2010

Jolie O’Dell:

We’ve been conditioned to believe that he who publishes last, loses.

He who publishes last doesn’t get the credit for “breaking” the news. He who publishes last doesn’t get that first flood of traffic from news aggregation sites and the social web. He who publishes last is a “me too” pansy with no news-gathering skills whatsoever.

And so we rush, we compete, we “win.” But looking back over our vapid posts with little information, no wit, no context, no invitations to ruminate, how hollow those victories seem.

Read the full post at Context Not Optional.

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Writing Microcopy

08 Jul 2010

On the small, contextual instructions that often appear inside or next to web forms:

Ironically, the smallest bits of copy, microcopy, can have the biggest impact.

Microcopy is small yet powerful copy. It’s fast, light, and deadly. It’s a short sentence, a phrase, a few words. A single word. It’s the small copy that has the biggest impact. Don’t judge it on its size…judge it on its effectiveness.

via Writing Microcopy « Bokardo – Social Design by Joshua Porter.

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Researchers have known for 80 years about a symbolic connection between speech and size: back-of-the-mouth vowels like the “o” in “two” make people think of large sizes, whereas people associate front-of-the-mouth vowels like “ee” with diminutiveness. Marketers can use this effect to make consumers think a discount is bigger or smaller than it truly is…

via Drilling Down – Vowel Sounds Influence Consumers’ Perception of Prices – NYTimes.com.

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