Full Circle Communications

March 2012
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past issues
Scan past issues on such topics as design tips for writers and speechwriting.

ease in writing?
"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Note he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just as dance lessons can help get you around the floor more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two to improve your writing.

Writing Fabulous FAQs

FAQ photo
Okay, the headline exaggerates. Your FAQs--the "frequently asked questions" on your website--don't have to be fabulous. But they do need to be clear, free of hype, and reflect questions that users have in real life.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

Include real questions: An FAQ list should not start with a softball question like, "What are the benefits of using your [fill-in-the-blank product or service]?" unless you frequently are truly asked this question.

Make the questions short: "Are my tickets refundable?"

No sales talk: The FAQ page is not the place for self-promotional writing. People come to the page because they have a question that needs answering.

No legalese: In an effort to tone down the hype, however, don't get too technical or formal. A conversational tone is good. (As Ginny Radish notes in her book Letting Go of the Words, "show that you are a person and your organization includes people.")

Organize the questions: If you have a long list of questions, organize them by category. You can also list the questions at the top, with anchor tags to take users to the specific question they have with its answer.

Provide an easy way to get a more complete answer: Many questions require more nuanced answers that go beyond a few sentences. Make it easy for users to contact you for a more information.

Provide an easy way to ask a different question: Likewise, the user may find his or her question is not included. Through a form or an email link, make it easy to ask other questions. (You may even find that you get a question often enough that you add it, too, to your FAQs.)

Do you have a question, frequently asked or not, about web or other writing? Get in touch and we will figure out the answer.

Back to the 1860s

Fairfax Seminary, 1860s
Fairfax Seminary (main building shown here, off of Seminary Road, shown here still stands) was one of more than 30 Union hospitals in Alexandria and environs. (Digital print from Library of Congress, LC-B811- 2322 [P&P] LOT 4161-H) 

I have been researching Alexandria during the Civil War for the last year or so. The Union Army came into the city almost the minute that Virginia seceded, and Alexandria soon was filled with bustling and often inefficient Union hospitals and supply sites, unhappy native Alexandrians ("secesh" to the northerners), and thousands of former slaves who came to freedom.

In the midst of all this, Julia Wilbur, a Quaker woman who took the train down to "Alex" (her term) from Rochester, New York, a woman on her own in the 1860s. She lived here for several years, trying to assist the refugees and hospital patients, and generally act as a conscience (and occasional pest) to the powers-that-be.

Now, I am transcribing her handwritten journal, which has transported me back to the glory and mundanity of this time. Fortunately, her handwriting is reasonably legible. More to come on this great project.

Full Circle Communications, LLC / Alexandria, VA / 703.212.0349