“Simply pushing out the same content that has worked on the Web isn’t likely to work on a smaller screen manipulated by tapping and swiping instead of clicking.”
— Shel Holtz, principal, Holtz Communication + Technology

June writing contest: Now on tap

Try this new format for mobile storytelling

Clicking and scrolling is so 2010. Now a writer and media inventor has created a new storytelling format that takes advantage of mobile screens to let people tap through a story.

Call it a tap essay, sort of a slide show or multiple-page greeting card for the iPhone. Readers use their fingers to tap their screens to move the story forward.

That’s right: forward. Never back.

BIG FISH "Fish," a "tap essay" by Robin Sloan, may change the way we tell stories on mobile devices.

BIG FISH ‘Fish,’ a ‘tap essay’ by Robin Sloan, may change the way we tell stories on mobile devices.

Linear storytelling reduces distractions.

That’s one of the constraints laid out by Robin Sloan. He’s the San Francisco-based writer and inventor who created the tap essay. Among the “rules” of tap essays, readers:

  • Can’t go backwards
  • Don’t follow links
  • May tweet some phrases

The only thing the reader controls is the pace.

Because of these navigational limitations, the tap essay reduces the distractions of the Web. And, because you can see only one screen at a time, it enforces the linear narrative even more than print does.

Check out Sloan’s essay for yourself.

Like an online slide show

I was reminded of the tap essay while working with the University of Michigan Alumni Association last month. Michigan’s digital media library includes slide shows like A season of Twisters.

Think of tap essays as online slide shows with a twist.

GIVE IT A TWIST The tap essay is similar to an online slideshow, like this one from the University of Michigan.

GIVE IT A TWIST The tap essay is similar to an online slide show, like this one from the University of Michigan.

Tap it out on Tapestry.

Now you can create your own tap essays or read others for inspiration on Tapestry, a new iPhone app.

CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTHTapestry created TxTPals, a new tap essay inspired by Sloan's "Fish."

CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH Tapestry created TxTPals, a new tap essay inspired by Sloan’s ‘Fish.’

Give it a go.

June writing contest: Please send me your tap essay by June 15.
I’ll send a little gift to the person with the best one.

Social Media Writing Boot Camp

In this session, you’ll discover how to make your blog postings, tweets and other status updates more relevant, valuable and interesting to your readers.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Use the 70-20-10 rule for engaging your followers, plus other tips for making sure your status updates are welcome guests, not intrusive pests.
  • Pass the “who cares?” test and four other techniques for becoming a resource, not a bore, on social media.
  • Get retweeted. Five steps for expanding your influence and reach on Twitter.
  • Tweet like the FBI. Write dramatic, compelling status updates that draw followers and get clicks.
  • Make your posts personable. There’s a reason they call it “social” media.
  • Tweak your tweets. Get your message across in 140 characters or fewer. Plus, learn how to make 140 characters go further — and when you must come in under the character limit.

Want to bring Social Media Writing Boot Camp to your team? Contact Ann.

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“Words, words, words — I’m so sick of words.”
— Eliza Doolittle to Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady

Who rocked our one-sentence-story contest?

Winner is witty, pithy and wise

Last month, I challenged you to model my favorite city magazine, Portland Monthly, and write a one-sentence story. Models included:

“News that Powell’s Books and Rogue Ales are collaborating on a beer infused with actual pages of Moby Dick raises the troubling prospect of 50 Shades of Grey-flavored absinthe.”

“Yamhill’s new high school viticulture program easily trumps the self-taught alcohol curriculum offered at most high schools.”

“History’s most depressing souvenir knickknack arrives: the newly released Portland skyline rain globe.”

Thirteen of you rose to the challenge. Here are the best of the bunch.

Familiar favorites

Two writers submitted favorite one-sentence stories written by others.

Skip Colcord, a communicator in Taunton, Mass., shares the best lead sentence he’s ever read. It was atop a feature story on illegal distilleries that still exist in remote areas of Pennsylvania:

“The moon still shines on the moonshine stills in the hills of Pennsylvania.”

Skip, I wish you could remember who wrote it, too!

Debora R. Murphy, manager of employee engagement at Ag & Turf Supply Management, shares a pithy, if familiar, tagline:

“Nothing runs like a Deere.”

A brief sports story

Alejandro (Alex) Morones, tech writer / editor III at The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Office of Information Security, summarizes a sports story in 38 words:

“The upstart Golden State Warriors ran roughshod over the bewildered San Antonio Spurs for 44 regulation minutes, only to have their victory party spoiled in the second overtime period by the almost-scapegoat, yet somehow last-second savior, Manu Ginobili.”

Ouch! Short and tart

George Dudley, communications specialist for the N.C. Department of Public Safety Communications Office, responded to an egregious math error in our latest issue with this one-sentence story:

“A ‘disease that kills 1,286 people out of every 1,000’ kills everybody and then some.”

Much as it hurts to laugh, George, I do love this one.

And the winner is …

Sheri Booms Holm, communications director for West Central Initiative, packs alliteration and an extended metaphor into a 20-word business story:

“Business incubators help hatch new ideas and give fledgling firms a chance to test their wings in a nurturing environment.”

Congratulations, Sheri! While I’d love to offer you a job at Portland Monthly, I will send you something else I love from my new hometown.

Cut Through the Clutter

Want to make every piece you write easier to read and understand?

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“You may have tweeted your condolences, but you still have to send flowers.”
Esquire’s “New Rules for Men”

Tweak your tweets

RetweetLab shows you how

I get the most retweets when I tweet on Monday. But I tweet most often on Tuesday. Maybe I should make a change?

Thank you, RetweetLab!

RetweetLab is the latest free tool from the cool kids at HubSpot. You can use it to find out what techniques work best for your own tweeting strategy, not just in general.

Type in your Twitter handle, and RetweetLab analyzes and gives you a dozen analytics on your tweets. This look at what’s working for you vs. what you actually do reveals insights for getting the most out of your Twitter presence.

Here’s what RetweetLab had to say about my tweets:

Day of the week

The sprocket shows which day of the week @AnnWylie gets the highest retweets per tweet. Right now, @AnnWylie sends the most tweets per hour (25.04%) on Tuesday.

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Time for a change!

Hour of day

The sprocket indicates which hour of the day @AnnWylie gets the highest retweets per tweet. Right now, @AnnWylie sends the most tweets per hour (11.14%) at 12 p.m. Eastern time.

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OK, friends: Who’s up at 1 a.m. reading my Twitter feed?

Reading-grade level

The sprocket shows the reading-grade level at which @AnnWylie gets the highest retweets per tweet. Right now, the average reading-grade level for @AnnWylie is 5.23.

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Maybe I should aim a little higher, given my super-literate readers.


The sprocket shows the sentiment level at which @AnnWylie gets the highest retweets per tweet. Negative numbers are negative, positive are positive. Right now, the average sentiment score for @AnnWylie is 1.54.

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I’ve been accused of being irritatingly cheerful. Sounds like I need to be a little more morose on Twitter.

Capitalization percentage

The sprocket shows the percentage of capital letters at which @AnnWylie gets the highest retweets per tweet. Right now, the average percentage of capital letters for @AnnWylie is 7.78.

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Most retweetable words

The most retweetable words for @AnnWylie are:

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Hey, Grandma, let’s go to Harvard and text Tim Burnett!


The bar graph below indicates the effect of hashtags by @AnnWylie on retweets per tweet. Right now, 89.86% of tweets from @AnnWylie do not include hashtags.

rur_130600_ (9)I’d say this is interesting, but not necessarily actionable, given the small sample size.


This bar graph indicates the effect of quotes by @AnnWylie on retweets per tweet. Right now, 88.96% of tweets from @AnnWylie do not include quotes.

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Again, this is probably too small a sample to base a decision on.

Calls to action

This bar graph below shows the effect of calls to action (like “please retweet,” “please rt,” and “retweet if”) by @AnnWylie on retweets per tweet. Right now, 100% of tweets from @AnnWylie do not include CTAs.

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I’m not one to ask for the retweet. But this is a good reminder that that might be a variable in Twitter success.


This bar graph shows the effect of questions by @AnnWylie on retweets per tweet. Right now, 79.17% of tweets from @AnnWylie are not questions.

rur_130600_ (12)

I’m more declarative than interrogatory, for sure. But then, what do you think about this result?

Check out RetweetLab today.

Find out how you might tweak your tweets.

Reach readers online.

Want to get the word out on the Web?

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“Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.”
— Igor Stravinsky, Russian-American composer of modern classical music

Add words, reduce readership

Longer stories lose readers faster

Size does matter.

Everything else being equal, your readers would rather read a short piece than a long piece.

Of course, all things are never really equal. Given more space, you can do a better job of making your copy more valuable and entertaining, which encourages readership.

But everything else being equal, your readers prefer a short piece to a long piece.

Here’s evidence that readers want less:

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THE SHORT AND THE LONG OF IT More people read further when the story is shorter rather than longer.

The shorter the story, the more they read.

The longer the story, the more quickly readers stop reading.

That was one of the findings the “father of communication studies,” Wilbur Schramm, made in this 1947 study of newspaper readers.

For the study, he interviewed 1,050 readers about what they read, how much and why they stopped.

He found that:

  • A nine-paragraph-long story lost three out of 10 readers by the fifth paragraph.
  • A shorter story lost only two.

Bottom line: Length itself affects readability.

Cut Through the Clutter

Is your copy easy to read? According to communication experts, that’s one of the two key questions people ask to determine whether to read a piece — or toss it.

Fortunately, academics have tested and quantified what makes copy easy to read. Unfortunately, that research virtually never makes it out of the ivory tower and into the hands of writers who could actually apply it.

But in Ann’s Cut Through the Clutter writing workshop, you’ll learn “the numbers” you need to measurably improve your copy’s readability. Specifically, you’ll learn:

  • How long is too long: For your paragraphs? Your sentences? Your words?
  • Three ways to shorten your copy — and which is the most effective way
  • How to cut your copy before you’ve even written the first word
  • How to avoid causing your reader to skip your paragraphs
  • A tool you can use (you probably already have it, but you might not know it) to quantifiably improve your copy’s readability
  • A seven-step system for making your copy clearer and more concise

Want to bring Ann’s Cut Through the Clutter writing workshop to your team? Contact Ann.


Source: William H. DuBay, Readers, Readability, and the Grading of Text (PDF), Impact Information (Costa Mesa, California), 2007

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“I have no idea what readership is of written editorials, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to the readership of editorial cartoons.”
— Paul Conrad, political cartoonist

Now They SEE It

Learn to Communicate With Comics at the IABC World Conference


Words + pictures communicate better than either one alone. Years of research show that comic strips, comic stories and comic books get people to:

  • Pay attention to your message
  • Understand your message
  • Remember your message
  • Act on your message

Get the word out with comics.

Now you can learn to use this power tool of communications. Join Ann for “Now They SEE It: Communicate With Comics” at 2:30 p.m. on June 24 at the 2013 IABC World Conference in New York. There, you will learn:

  • Why it makes sense to communicate with comics. Learn what makes comic strips, comic stories and comic books power tools of communication. (Use this research to sell your approvers on the approach.)
  • When to communicate with comics. See how others have developed award-winning campaigns around comic characters and stories.
  • How to communicate with comics. Get tips for writing scripts for comics and for working with comics artists.
  • Where to find resources: Explore no-cost, low-cost and worth-the-investment tools for communicating with comics.

Attending the conference, but can’t make this session? Please come by and say, “Hi!” I look forward to seeing you there!

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“Ann is one of the best writing presenters I’ve ever seen. I have so many things I can put to use the second I get home.”
— Christine Morgan, Reignite Communications

Ann’s touring schedule

Polish your skills at one of these events

Alas, I can’t invite you to the in-house seminars I present for private organizations.

COME ALONG FOR THE RIDE Catch Ann at one of her upcoming workshops.

But everyone’s invited to these upcoming public seminars in:

  • Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 23.  Catch Your Readers, a one-day workshop for the Kentucky Association of Government Communicators
  • New York City on June 26. Now They SEE It, a one-hour breakout session for the 2013 IABC World Conference
  • New York City on Dec. 2. Write for the Web, a full-day workshop for PRSA
  • Philadelphia on Oct 23. Write for Social Media, a half-day pre-conference session for the PRSA World Conference
  • San Francisco on June 6. Catch Your Readers, a one-day workshop for PRSA
  • Tacoma, Wash., on Aug. 14. Catch Your Readers, a half-day workshop for PRSA Puget Sound
  • Your own home or office, on June 18. Make Your Copy More Creative, a one-hour webinar for PRSA
  • Your own home or office, Sept. 5. Anatomy of a News Release, a one-hour webinar for PRSA

Would you like to attend? Please contact meeting planners directly for details.

Can’t make these events? If you’d like to bring me in for a workshop at your organization, contact me.

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Where in the world is Ann?

Cut your training costs when you piggyback your program

Save money when you piggyback your workshop by scheduling it when I’m already “in the neighborhood.” Book your program the day before or after another organization’s and split my airfare and ground transportation with the other group.

Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:

  • Austin, Texas: Nov. 7
  • Louisville, Ky.: Oct. 16
  • Minneapolis: Oct. 9
  • New York City: June 26, Dec. 2
  • Philadelphia: Oct. 23
  • San Francisco: June 6
  • Tacoma, Wash.: Aug. 14
  • Washington, D.C.: June 27

Save even more: Ask about my communication-association discounts and second-day fee reductions.

Contact me to discuss piggybacking.

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What are we up to?

The folks at Wylie Communications have been enjoying:

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Keep up with my calendar

Find out when I’m coming to your neighborhood, learn when you can sign up for one of my programs and otherwise keep up with my calendar.

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Let’s connect

Keep in touch via:

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Please share this issue

… with two of your colleagues by directing them to our current issue. Better yet, invite them to subscribe to Wylie’s Writing Tips. They’ll thank you — and so will I!

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For more info …

… about my seminars, publication consulting or writing and editing services, please contact me or visit my website.

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