U is for User-Friendly




I graduated from LSU with a business degree and for the majority of my professional life I’ve developed training materials, taught classes, and composed instruction manuals…all for the purpose of teaching people how to properly use the tools they were provided to do their jobs. I’ve also had the opportunity to design some of these same systems from the ground up – to tailor how the framework is presented to the operators and help guide their interaction. Believe me when I tell you that there is not one single aspect of what I’ve been doing for the past 30+ years that is not made easier by the concept of “user-friendly”.

But have you ever thought about how that phrase applies to your writing?

Think about it…how many times have you been told not to use twenty words to explain something that could be done in ten? More user-friendly. Don’t try and show off your extensive vocabulary by using obtuse words the reader will have to look up when simpler words will accomplish the same result. More user-friendly. Construct your book with short chapters or multiple scenes per chapter to provide the reader plenty of breaking points. More user-friendly. Break-up your paragraph structures so they aren’t so repetitive and keep the reader engaged. More user-friendly.

These are just a few examples, but I think you get my point. Writing a book is more than just an intriguing story, compelling characters, and a unique voice. Technical considerations such as these could be a deciding factor when a prospective buyer picks your book off the shelf and studies it. I know I have put back plenty of books I was on the fence about because they contained pages and pages of long worded paragraphs, or lengthy…thirty page chapters. I did that because I didn’t view the books as easy reads. To me, they weren’t user-friendly.

Think of it this way -- those of us seeking publication, we are creating a product for sale. And hopefully the people who purchase our product will want to recommend it to lots of other people. What better recommendation is there than, “It was really easy to use!”

Did you know I was holding a contest during the A-Z Challenge? You can read all about it HERE.

49 comments

  1. I've never applied that phrase to my writing. Maybe I should - it would probably help cutdown on my wordy sentences.
    Love the picture!

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  2. I like the term 'user friendly' with writing. I also like user friendly kitchens. If you've ever cooked or prepped with more than one person in a kitchen, you'll understand.

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  3. It's an important thing to remember, but oh so hard! I'm always editing and chopping out so much to make it user friendly.

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  4. Great point! Technique and mechanics are definites while creating a story.

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  5. Simple is better. I remember during one of my first interviews, I spouted the line "There's no big words in my book because I don't know any." The interviewer laughed, and I've used that line ever since.

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  6. Didn't think of writing that way. But I think you're right. And I'm not a fan of those kind of books either.

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  7. Excellent post. I never thought of it in that manner, but you've hit it right on the nose. We always say write for ourselves, but we need to revise for our readers.

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  8. I agree. Americans, in particular, are busy people who are distracted by 50 million things. Most won't take the time to read a complicated book. That's why books that are easy to read become bestsellers.

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  9. It's important to keep in mind the target audience! That can dictate a lot on how you write the novel, the structure and word choice.

    Happy A to Z-ing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  10. I love this concept of user friendly. I find that I read books with short chapters faster, because it's easy to say, "Just one more chapter." Before you know it, you've finished the book. :D

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  11. User friendly! I like that description. Yeah, I think my writing is user friendly.

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  12. I think I've learned something new today. :)

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  13. Good point when writing, but something to keep in mind in all of life's endeavours.

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  14. This is a good way of looking at our writing. One of the many rules I follow suggests not using a big complex word when a simpler word will do. In fact, a lot of the writing rules I follow are really all about making our writing more accessible, or, as you say, user-friendly :)

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  15. I've never thought of it that way, but I love it :) And you got a business degree from LSU? My hubby got a business degree and he's one of the smartest people I know :)

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  16. Very good blog. We'll all remember that when we're writing!

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  17. Love these tips. And your suggestions mirror advice I was given: keep chapters short and engaging.

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  18. Another sign of the times: short, easy, fast.

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  19. White space = user friendly too. Actually I never thought of it as user friendly but more a thing to do to be successful in writing. It's how I read also. The only thing I want to read for pleasure is not page after page of uniform paragraphs. It reminds me too much of textbooks.

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  20. This is a keeper post. Very user friendly...and educational!

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  21. KISS Method...another tool for making just about everything 'User Friendly'. Great post and reminder that 'More is NOT Better'. On that note, I'll keep this comment short...see, I'm getting the message. LOL!!!

    My Letter 'U'...UFO Retreat
    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

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  22. I think of it as economy of words and motion. Tighten up those sentences!

    thriftshopcommando.blogspot.com

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  23. Most people don't read so they can work, and if your book is work they won't read it. There is a fine line though. We don't want people to come out of our books knowing less than when the started but it does have to be user friendly.

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  24. I've never really thought of viewing a novel from a "user-friendly" perspective. How interesting.

    Lyre @ Lyre's Musings #atozchallenge

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  25. I have read books that aren't particularly user friendly! I think you made some great points about length of chapters. I like to finish a chapter when I am reading, it's a natural break. I don't like putting my book down mid chapter as it can be awkward when you resume reading. As I tend to read at night time I'm not always up for reading lengthy chapters before I fall asleep!

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  26. I'm also ambivalent about this post.
    Some things are better if the reader has to work at it.

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  27. You have a lot of good user friendly ideas. If the copy doesn't look clean and organized to me, I'll put it down.

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  28. Great point and one of the main reasons I can't stomach Tolkein's writing. Now, before everyone gets the pitchforks out, I'm not saying he was a bad writer...just not very user-friendly, as the post mentions.

    This is something I also need to be aware of in my writing...

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  29. Very good point. When I look at a long paragraph I go cross-eyed and put the book down.

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  30. Hi D.L.,

    If I'm in a satirical mood, I will deliberately use a run-on sentence. Not this time, however. What aggravates me is the over-usage of the conjunction word "and". This weakens a sentence. If a sentence or paragraph has too much information, I might just give that writing a miss.

    Also, I write in an intimate style. I do not write to an audience in my endeavours. Importantly, it's a good idea to have the reader feel involved in what they are reading.

    Interesting and informative.

    Regards,

    Gary

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  31. Small print and confusing formats readily come to mind. However, if a story is good, I mean really good, I won't be put off by such things for long. On the same token, if a story is "user-friendly" and it's bad or even mediocre, I probably won't finish reading it, unless there's nothing better to do at the time.

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  32. This is great advice DL...

    We should all consider this, especially in the editing stage...

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  33. Great suggestions for how to write a book that isn't a complete slog to get through. One self-editing book I read said you want to make sure your book has a certain amount of white space, meaning sections where the writing is less dense. That way when readers pick up your book, they aren't scared off by pages and pages of heavy text. Like you said, it has to look user-friendly.

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  34. I'm working on becoming more user friendly. I'm just not that good at it yet.

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  35. The lack of these considerations is what causes me to stumble and skim in older books like (dare I say) Lord of the Rings and Dracula.

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  36. User friendly? An interesting perspective DL!

    Writer In Transit

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  37. Hemingway was an advocate of "user friendly" writing.

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  38. When I write blog posts, I'm usually writing at a fast and furious pace, taking only a few minutes to re-read and tighten up my writing. When I take more time, or let a post sit for a day or two, I always have a much better product in the end.

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  39. Spare words are more user friendly. I like that concept!

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  40. You have a point. But I do like writing that has depth. Hemingway drove me nuts with his short, choppy, repetitive sentences. Tolkien, Steinbeck, Jack London... writers with depth while (to me) still being user friendly. Styles do change, but now it seems (to me) that things are being simplified to a point that feels like a slow dumbing-down.

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  41. I wasn't user-friendly in my early writing days. I wrote very long sentences and heavily used the thesaurus.

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  42. Yes,but...sometimes the perfect word isn't a simple one. We need to know our audience and if they are reasonably intelligent, we shouldn't have to dumb down our vocabulary. (Yeah, as if I have a huge vocabulary! Not sure why I'm making this point.)

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  43. Forgot to ask. I can't see the follow button so I can get your blog on my blogger dashboard. Is it a problem with Internet Explorer?

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  44. I've never thought of that before. I'll have to start making my writing more user friendly!

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  45. Or at the very least use words that don't make everyone else seem stupid for not knowing them. I don't mind learning something new once in a awhile though.

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  46. I love the thought of applying this to writing. I've been a software engineer for many years, so I know the phrase well. I always tried to create software that was user-friendly. I just need to apply it to my writing now! :)

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com

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