Hobgoblins and Text Boxes

One target in writing RFP responses is to make the reading as easy as possible; indeed, to minimize the reading required. Making the content vivid and accessible is iterative and time-consuming. Start by understanding the target; move on to scheduling enough time to allow it.  

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

This last little while – really all the time since July – has been a blur.  Proposal Land, Publishing Land, Proposal Land again.  Back and forth I go.  One day I’m restructuring sections written by technical experts; the next I’m implementing copy editing marks in my manuscript (thanks, Jane!).  One day I’m formatting raw content so it can be grokked; the next I’m reformatting my book for what feels like the umpteenth time, after a bright idea strikes.

In Proposal Land, the objective is to make content “come off the page” – to be able to be grasped almost without reading.  Keep an entire set of bullets on one page, so that the reader can see them all at once.  Add bold headings that alert readers to the bullet’s subject.  Use pull-out boxes to emphasize major points; use attachments to sequester detail that they’ll need, but don’t need to read through on the first pass.  And so on.  And on.  It’s a messy, iterative process.  You can’t start at or even very near the desired end; instead, you need to get the content, get it clear, and then look for successively better ways to make it “pop,” as my designer friends say.  The more you do, the more you see what you can do.

It turns out that this is the same in Publishing Land; well, maybe not for Nobel-Prize-winning, first-ever Canadian, short-story authors but for the possible winner of the sure-to-be-next-established Nobel Prize written-word category (technical manuals).  And so, as I go through my book, ostensibly in the final stages of clean-up preparatory to passing control to the designer, I keep seeing ways I can make it pop.  Bullets, headings, text boxes (Oh, my).

Did I write just a while back about knowing when something was good enough?  When it was ready to ship?

What if I did?  There’s no foolish consistency here . . .

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