Portfolio

You can view my resumé here (PDF document).

Special report

Put Your Writing to the Test. Can you tell if your writing will get the results you want? Will that document, that letter, that brochure meet the goals you have for it? Is there some way to find out? Yes there is, and this special report will show you how.

Software documentation

Articles

CRM Is a Mindset, Not a Technology.” Associations Now Supplement, April 2007 (PDF document).

10 tips for effective e-mail.” The Partner Channel Magazine, Summer 2007 (PDF document).

The Shape of Information.” The Editorial Eye, March 2007 (PDF document).

White paper

“Integrating Business Portal 3.0 with Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003: A Natural Fit”.” Microsoft Corporation, 2005 (PDF document).

Book chapter

“Shaping Information for Its Users: The Pursuit of Usefulness,” in The Elements of Internet Style, EEI Press, 2007.

Excerpt:

A basic structural design underlies every kind of writing. . . [and] in most cases planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing. The first principle of composition, therefore, is to foresee or determine the shape of what is to come and pursue that shape.

 

–William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style

As Strunk and White pointed out long before anyone ever heard of “information architecture,” all the written content we create must have some sort of structure. Whether it’s straightforward data like population or crop production statistics, or more semantically rich information such as a corporate handbook or a biography, selecting an appropriate framework increases the odds that people will find it useful-which, after all, is the point.

The structure selected for any given writing project should reflect the goals of the intended audience for using the information. But we can go beyond responding to immediate wants and help readers (called users in this context) gain insights they didn’t know they wanted-giving them a favorable perception that content is usable.

It’s not merely a matter of organizing information so people can efficiently do what we intend them to. What will they want to be able to do with it? When communicators honor the potential for adding value to the reading (information access) experience, users repay them with attention.

LATCHING ON TO TOOLS

Only five useful structures are available to organize the factual and statistics-based information we publish in print and online, according to Richard Saul Wurman, who lists them in his book Information Anxiety 2 (Pearson Education, 2000) using the mnemonic LATCH: Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, Hierarchy.

  • Location can refer to geographic placement, such as you might find in a tourism guide or geography text. But it’s also a structure used to explain such things as the layers of the atmosphere, the spatial characteristics of a building, and the layout of a Web page.
  • Alphabet structure is most familiarly seen in the conventional way dictionaries, encyclopedias, and indexes are organized.
  • Time is a natural organizational choice for narrating or listing a chronological sequence of events. It is seen in biographies and histories, programs of event activities, and descriptions of biological or administrative processes.
  • Categories are a very versatile structure because they allow us to sort and group items or ideas by the characteristics we choose to highlight. For example, information about automobiles can be categorized by manufacturer, weight class, number of passengers, price range, and so forth. Categories can be nested as well, with subcategories within larger categories. The taxonomy used to classify living things-kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species-is a well-known example of a nested structure.
  • Hierarchy is the structure most useful for rank-ordering or comparing items according to set criteria or on a scale. Cars can be ranked or compared according to their mileage, horsepower, or crash-test ratings. This is similar to the category structure, but the information is given a rank or weight on some sort of scale-biggest to smallest, richest to poorest, fastest to slowest.
Wurman, who lists them in his book Information Anxiety 2 (Pearson
Education, 2000) using the mnemonic LATCH: Location, Alphabet, Time,
Category, Hierarchy.
• Location can refer to geographic placement, such as you might find in a
tourism guide or geography text. But it’s also a structure used to explain
such things as the layers of the atmosphere, the spatial characteristics of a
building, and the layout of a Web page.
• Alphabet structure is most familiarly seen in the conventional way dictionaries,
encyclopedias, and indexes are organized.
• Time is a natural organizational choice for narrating or listing a chronological
sequence of events. It is seen in biographies and histories, programs of
event activities, and descriptions of biological or administrative processes.
• Categories are a very versatile structure because they allow us to sort
and group items or ideas by the characteristics we choose to highlight.
For example, information about automobiles can be categorized by
manufacturer, weight class, number of passengers, price range, and so
forth. Categories can be nested as well, with subcategories within larger
categories. The taxonomy used to classify living things-kingdom,
phylum, class, order, family, genus, species-is a well-known example
of a nested structure.
• Hierarchy is the structure most useful for rank-ordering or comparing
items according to set criteria or on a scale. Cars can be ranked or compared
according to their mileage, horsepower, or crash-test ratings. This is
similar to the category structure, but the information is given a rank or
weight on some sort of scale-biggest to smallest, richest to poorest,
fastest to slowest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s