A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

McAlpine, Rachel

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Accessible Graphs and Charts Online

Most government web writers are knowledgeable about alt-text by now... or at least semi-knowledgeable. But sometimes, alt-text is not enough.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Design>Accessibility>Web Design>Charts and Graphs


Combining Paper and Electronic Communication

A few ideas for ad hoc workforce communication that must be conveyed on paper as well as electronically.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Articles>Business Communication>Online


Content for Tourism and Hospitality Sites

My worst experiences with hospitality sites have been to do with vague location, online timetables, poor follow-up communication, and out of date information. I have wasted days as a result, which I hate.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Web Design>Marketing>Writing


Corporate Pages 2002-2004 (Part 1)

In 2002 I saved nine sample web pages from corporate web sites, for teaching purposes. On 1 June 2004 I took another look at those pages or their current equivalent. No way is this a systematic study or even a random sample. But the results are interesting and do reflect trends in corporate web sites.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Design>Web Design>History


Corporate Pages 2002-2004 (Part 2)

When training web authors, I prefer to use good examples of their kind, so these must have been either typical or among the best I could find at the time. However, they certainly did not contain content to skite about.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Design>Web Design>Style Guides


Dodge the Grammar Traps

You don't have to swallow a grammar book to write correctly. If you can just avoid ten serious and very common traps, your chances of making a grammar mistake drop dramatically.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Writing>Grammar


Draft 2 of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

It's time to take a look at the working draft of WCAG 2.0. You'll see a fresh approach to a formidable challenge.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Standards


Estimating the Cost of Writing and Editing

The cost depends on how long and complex the document is, and how much editing is required. Most editors have a fixed hourly rate, and will quote for a job after they have studied the document. Skilled wordsmiths usually charge more per hour, because they do the job faster. When you find a fine wordsmith, handle with care. They are not exactly thick on the ground.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Careers>Consulting>Writing


Eyes Top Left: Lessons from Eyetrack III

Where do your eyes go when you read articles on the Web? What do you notice, and what do you miss? The upper left quarter of the screen gets the most attention, according to the Eyetrack III research of The Poynter Institute, the Estlow Center for Journalism & New Media, and Eyetools.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Articles>Web Design>User Centered Design>Eye Tracking


From Plain English to Global English

Make your documents easy for EFL users to read and understand, and communicate successfully with people all over the world. About one billion people use English as a foreign language (EFL). You can avoid most pitfalls of cross-cultural communication by using global English.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2001). Articles>Writing>Localization>Minimalism


How to Write a Summary, and Why

The first text in most web and intranet pages should be a summary of 1-2 sentences. That's a good rule of thumb. The starter-summary has several important functions.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Articles>Web Design>Writing


It's Only Words

Today, at least in this country, most government and corporate organisations are well aware that words online matter. A lot. Even when the technology is perfect, words can make or break the success of a web site or intranet. So sure, words now get due respect in many quarters.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Web Design>Writing>Government


Keep Spelling Consistent With a Style Sheet

Consistent spelling and punctuation increases your website's credibility. Often it's your decision: 'inhouse' or 'in-house', for instance? Either one is correct, but you must use the same punctuation throughout.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Writing>Style Guides


Link Location That Works

Where to put links on a web page? That's a standard dilemma for content writers. Best to establish a policy and make sure all writers on your site follow it. That has an added advantage of standardising the 'look' of your pages.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Web Design>Hypertext>Writing


National Policies for Government Web Writers

Every country has its own requirements for public sector web sites. Legislation and policies vary greatly, and express an attitude. I base my Quality Web Content workshops for government web content writers on the policy of the country concerned. Some countries consider that an accessible site requires accessible writing. Others don't.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Web Design>Accessibility>Writing


The Paper Mountain Goes Online

Ample research has proved that companies can save many thousands of dollars by rewriting key documents in plain English. Poor communication on the Web and intranet are squandering the time and money of many an organisation.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>Minimalism


Passing the Ten-Second Test

When you make a web page easy to grasp, in the very first 10 seconds after a visitor arrives, you can both increase its credibility and improve its search engines ranking. Rachel shares precise methods for composing effective text for Web sites.

McAlpine, Rachel. Wise-Women (2004). Design>Web Design>Writing>Usability


A Problem of Category

What is this thing called web content? I fear most people still believe that it's something as trivial as a whitebait in a bucket. Fresh whitebait is transparent. If you don't look hard, you can only see the container, and not the thing contained.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Writing>Theory


Say When and Where

Certain expressions in web content get users all discombobulated. Relative expressions of time and place need an anchor, a key, right there in the text. Some common confusers follow. They would not be a problem in other circumstances. But on the Web or intranet, every page must make sense in isolation.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Articles>Web Design>Writing


Seven Tests for Quality Web Content

Do these quick tests on every web page you write or edit. Use the tests for quality control of web content.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Web Design>Assessment


Standards for Online Content Authors

The standards on this page include non-technical standards relevant to all web authors and technical standards relevant to some web authors.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Articles>Web Design>Style Guides>Writing


Standards for Online Graphs

A government organisation in New Zealand wants to create standards for graphs, especially online graphs. Until now, we haven't been able to find any existing standards, so we will have to start from scratch.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Design>Web Design>Standards>Charts and Graphs


Stanford's Web Credibility Study

In this study, 2,684 people evaluated the credibility of two live web sites randomly assigned from one of 10 content categories. A total of 100 sites were assessed. The Stanford credibility team analysed the comments to discover how consumers evaluated credibility online.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Articles>Web Design>Assessment


Stop Creating ROT (Redundant, Outdated and Trivial Content)

Redundant, outdated and trivial content (ROT): you're soaking in it. First and second generation web sites and intranets are full of ROT. It's almost inevitable when you have a web site but no system for reviewing content regularly.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2005). Articles>Web Design>Writing


Those Pesky Index Pages

Every directory on the site must have an index page. The index.htm or index.html page is a standard requirement for every directory on every site.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Design>Web Design>Information Design



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