Recommended Reading: Plain-language awards, the dangers of tiny URLs, and wooing online readers

Write to Be Understood — And Win an Award
Source: Center for Plain Language

The Center for Plain Language is looking for the best and worst examples of writing in the public and private sectors.

The center offers two awards: the ClearMark award for good, plain language and design and the WonderMark award for confusing — and unintentionally humorous — language. Each award has a public-sector category. The deadline is Feb. 15.

To get an idea of what makes bad writing, check out the center’s blog. A recent post called out the Washington, D.C., metro system for sending this text message alert: “Due to DC Fire and EMS activity, L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station is closed to citizens.”

“Perhaps it’s a way of getting all those pesky visitors out of D.C.,” the post states. “If you’re not a citizen of the District, feel free to go into the burning Metro.”

The plain-language option? “The Metro is closed.”

Related content

What's on Martha Dorris' reading list?

Beware of Tiny URLs
Source: PCWorld

The shortened URLs that have become standard on Twitter, Facebook and other sites are trouble waiting to happen. The problem is that those aliases mask the target sites, making them a perfect front for attackers looking to direct users to malicious sites, writes PCWorld’s Tony Bradley.

However, all is not lost. Twitter offers a program called TweetDeck that can display previews of shortened URLs, and Web browser plug-ins are available for use with other programs. TinyURL, one of the most popular services for shortening URLs, has a feature that enables people creating shortened URLs to provide recipients with a preview of the full version.

Bradley highlights 10 other hidden security threats, such as spam text messages and scareware, hoaxes that lure users into installing malicious “security” software. He also includes a list of resources for information about security threats and fixes, including the Hoax Encyclopedia,’s database of e-mail and virus hoax messages.

How to Build an Online Readership
Source: Social Media Strategery

It goes against conventional wisdom, but it is true nonetheless: One of the best ways to build an audience for an internal blog or wiki is to send e-mail messages.

People might like the idea of reading a blog or wiki, but in most cases, visiting the home page to check for updates “isn’t exactly top of mind,” writes blogger Steve Radick, who is also a social media consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. So as soon as you post a new entry, send an e-mail message with a link to it.

Radick also advises cross-promoting the blog or wiki in every available forum: team newsletters, meeting agendas or minutes, e-mail signatures, and briefings.

And it helps to be humble. “Just because you’re the boss/team lead/project manager doesn’t mean people have automatically subscribed to everything you do and are waiting with bated breath for your next post,” he writes.

About the Author

Connect with the FCW staff on Twitter @FCWnow.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group