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I was recently asked to write a column for Spotlight, a magazine produced by the National Union of Students which is distributed to students’ union staff and officers. I chose to write about the value of good writing.

The theme of the issue is ‘Crafting your message’ and it is cool to see communications as a focus for an issue. It’s also cool that this issue is being put together by Demon Media, the student media team at De Montfort Students’ Union.

I chose ‘good writing’ as my topic as it is something important that I think is often overlooked in our rush to publish and share. Ironically it nearly went to print with a typo but let’s pretend that was intentional.

The power of words

The power of words fascinates me. The Government Digital Service found, for example, that changing the wording on one button increased clickthroughs by 600%. Seriously, their choice of word made a concrete, tangible difference. A word! In our cash and time-strapped worlds, knowing things like that can make such a difference and make our content work harder.

The data nerd in me loves things like that. It’s why I love doing things like split-testing email sign-up forms for our freshers newsletter. It demonstrates what a difference words can make.

Content design

I’ve found the approach of the Government Digital Service (yes, I talk about them a lot. I love them and my Feedly collection is quite GDS heavy) insightful. They refer to ‘content design’ which highlights the importance of layout and thinking about how best to present and communicate information rather than just slapping it onto a page. Sarah Richards, GDS Head of Content Design, talks on her blog about the need for editors to design.

Jo