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.”


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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, About.com’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.

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