Full Circle Communications

February 2016
Julia Wilbur and Harriet Jacobs: February 6 Presentation
Feb. 6, 11 a.m.

Alexandria Black History Museum, 901 Wythe Street (near Braddock Road metro + lots of free, on-street parking)

Freedmen relief workers Julia Wilbur and Harriet Jacobs were friends and allies in Civil War Alexandria. Quite unique for the time--Julia was white and Harriet was black. 

For more info:
One of the many events in Alexandria scheduled to connect with the PBS series Mercy Street.

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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.

Recipient of Constant Contact All Star Awards, 2011 through 2014!

Writers and Designers: Working Together
Color swatches I am a word person, but I know the truth: Design matters.
In fact, it plays a huge role in getting our carefully crafted words read--or not.
How can writers help designers make the words look good? And conversely, what do we do, perhaps inadvertently, that make the designer's job more difficult?
Ben Roberts, the principal of Six Half Dozen, a design studio in Alexandria, shared some ideas with me recently.
What Helps
  • Make it a team effort. At the beginning of the project sit down with the designer to pull out key points. Don't expect the designer to glean them, especially for longer documents.
  • Break up the whole into pieces
    For content-rich graphics, like infographics, help the designer by breaking up big ideas into smaller ones, such as steps in a process or key facts & figures.
  • Draft titles that are "short and smart." Be open to collaborating with the designer to select words that suggest something visual.
  • Organize online information in "levels." For example, for bios, provide a longer bio, a shortened form, then just name and title. 
One challenge we talked about is the "which-comes-first" conundrum: You want to write content based on how it will look on the page, but the designer wants to use the content to create the design. To him, dummy text ("lorem ipsum") is fine, as long as you have a reasonably good idea you will eventually use the final product. ("Why provide dummy text for three newsletter articles but then decide not to use articles at all?")
What Hinders
Ben diplomatically had difficulty coming up with things that writers do that get in the way of designers. But here are a few things he observed.
  • Don't do the design yourself. No need to spend time creating your own graphics (pie charts, etc.) that the designer won't use.
  • Don't write just to get to a certain length. Just because it's a four-page spread, you don't have to fill up every one of those four pages. "Never assume designers want to fill space with text," he said. "We like having room with which to work."
  • Don't wait until the last minute to hand off perfect copy to the designer. If you are waiting for final approval, give him or her an interim draft to start thinking of design possibilities. 
You can check out how Six Half Dozen incorporate words into design by looking at the portfolio on the studio's website.
A Few More Tips on Work Flow
Sue Hoffmeyer, SJZ Design, passed along two other helpful suggestions:
  • Communicate with consistencyWhen the writer is working directly with the client, remember to keep the designer informed on all project details. Also, the writer and designer need to be consistent in their communication with the client (such as not giving conflicting information about deadlines).
  • Revise files with cautionProvide files to the designer that are completely worked through before having them placed into the design template. Once placed, revisions can cause the text to reflow because of word and paragraph breaks and/or wraps around graphic or photographic elements, etc. This will add to the design time and to the cost of the job.
And Finally....

I recently had this exercise flipped, when web developer Elise LaPrade, Caught in the Web Consulting, asked me a few questions about writing for her blog. (She gave me a blush-worthy shout-out, too.)

Check out my responses and the rest of her lovely site.
Full Circle Communications, LLC / Alexandria, VA / 703.212.0350