The Writing Zone

Posted May 5, 2010

The media content you create for visitors to read, watch, or listen to can add up to an experience that’s either A) totally engrossing, or B) propels people straight toward the gift shop. During the weeks ahead, I’ll share my collection of basic (and hard-learned) pointers on writing for general audiences.  As a preview, here are four to keep in mind.

1.    Treat your visitors as if it’s Saturday — If your touch screen content and exhibit labels read like a textbook — or your audio and video content sounds like a lecture — you’ve already lost half of your audience. When writing for your visitors, treat it like a conversation, not a lesson plan.

2.    Lose the PowerPoint speak — It typically looks something like this: "Given the synergistic limitations on current storage management technology imposed by a heterogeneous archive infrastructure. . . .”  You get the idea. It’s the opposite of clear communication.  Don’t let it escape from your keyboard.

3.    Give your writing a personality — Modern life already bombards us with far too much bland, generic writing.  Show a little mercy.  Use a distinctive tone and voice that lets visitors know a living human being — not an android committee — created everything they’re reading, watching, and hearing.

4.    Lighten up — Playfulness costs nothing.  When it makes sense, a wry turn of phrase can turn virtually any topic (even one that normally induces narcolepsy) into something that stands a better chance of actually resonating with your visitors.

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned.

ESI Design

NBBJ’s New York experience design studio, ESI Design, transforms places into experiences that seamlessly weave the physical and digital worlds together.

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