Month: January 2007

January 22, 2007

How to write a good FAQ

Filed under: — Natasha @ 11:04 am
Question mark

I’ve been cleaning up some of my own FAQ pages as well as other people’s and it got me thinking about how to write a FAQ that actually answers questions users have.

The advantages of having a proper FAQ are many: less e-mails with time-consuming questions, happier users and a good idea of issues facing your products and services as well as your site.

A FAQ is about answering questions as succintly as possible.
A not so good FAQ doesn’t answer actual questions, but has rhetorical questions the company would love to be asked by users. This frustrates users and gives them the impression you couldn’t care less. Put yourself in the user’s place by visiting another site’s FAQ and see how quickly you can find your answer.

A FAQ should also be concise and not contain marketing language.
Again, people just want answers so they can get on with their work, not a sales pitch.

Sounds terribly obvious? It’s not! All those e-mails with questions about your products, services and site are free advice pointing out what you need to change, if you can read between the lines.

January 5, 2007

For the Dutch: British or American English?

Filed under: — Natasha @ 2:14 pm
English
English

You’re a Dutch native at home, able to write decent English. You learnt something akin to British English in school (lorry, kerb, crisps and the pub), but with all that American telly you’re being bombarded with, it’s all become truck, curb, chips and the bar. Modern Dutch culture is also telling you that this is the more international way to go, as Dutch borrows many words from American English instead of British English (i.e. ‘callcenter’ vs. ‘callcentre’).

The quick and dirty answer is use British English. The long answer is it always depends on the context.

Ask yourself these questions:

Who is your target audience?
Always consider your audience. Your choice of vocabulary is much more important than which spelling you use, but be consistent and don’t mix them up.

Are you writing English for a non-Dutch audience?
In this case, pick a spelling and simplify your vocabulary.

Do you plan to explain Dutch and/or European concepts?
Concepts such as housing, work and the government are very different from North America. In this case, I recommend using British English.

I use British spelling 98% of the time and American spelling 2% of the time. The latter is usually aimed at English-speaking North America, while the former is for Dutch companies expressing themselves in English for a non-Dutch, international audience. By the way, Canadians have their own spelling, but are used to reading American English, not British English.

A nice link about UK-US differences

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