I have this idea that the quality of an ebook can be judged by the hyperbole used to market it. The more excessively shouty and lurid the sales blurb, the less valuable the advice itself is likely to be.
You’ve probably seen the worst offenders. Over-excitable, garish web pages employ capital letters, bright colours and phrases like “THE BOOK THE PROFESSIONALS DON’T WANT YOU TO HAVE!!!!!!” Making unfeasible promises about unimaginable wealth, they only say one thing to me: run away.
Once you’ve seen a few of these it’s easy to tar every ebook with the same brush. Easy, yes. Unfair? Definitely.
One ebook worth reading
I say this because over at Bad Language, old pal Matthew Stibbe has released a comprehensive ebook to help make you a better business writer.
There’s no guarantee of lifelong wealth and a conspicuous lack of garish promotional graphics on Matthew’s site, yet this excellent guide offers some of the best business writing advice I’ve seen.
Grounded firmly in the real world, the book is packed with practical information to help you write better. It explains how the principles of good journalism are just as important to business writing. It’s all about telling an interesting story and geting under the skin of your audience.
Structured as a 30-day course, (but almost as useful read as and when you get the chance), Matthew’s book is free, well-written, and useful regardless of whether you write a bit, write a lot, or just work with writers.
Rather than listen to me bang on about it here, just go and take a look.
We’ve all done it: followed a link from a website, only to be met with those three words of dread: page not found. How frustrating – particularly if you clicked a really juicy-sounding link to get there.
When you get misdirected in this way, it’s doubly annoying if you hit a total dead end. No links, no search box and no navigation? All you can do is give up and retrace your steps by clicking back.
Kudos, then, to websites which turn the humble page not found message into something useful and entertaining.
Take the BBC’s effort. With a friendly message explaining what happened, a link to the main site navigation and a search box there are plenty of places to go next. Good.
They’ve really upped the ante with the visuals though, alluding to the BBC’s long history by adapting the old fashioned test card for the web.
This means a lot to those of us over a certain age. It takes us back to the days when TV used to close down overnight, so if you got up early enough there’d be nothing to watch except this slightly strange picture of a girl and a clown.
It plays on our nostalgia and makes us smile unexpectedly, turning a bad experience (not arriving at the page we expected) into a reasonably good one.
Have you spotted any other good error pages online? I’m thinking of compiling a list, so please leave a comment if so.
It’s been a bit of a strange week. Having arrived back from holiday on Sunday, I feel like I’ve been playing catchup for the past few days.
No matter – I’ve still managed to spot a few things you might find interesting. One or two of these might date back a month or so – I just noticed them late ’cause I’ve been away:
As you might recall, I’ve been away on holiday. I’m back now, reasonably recovered from jetlag and eager to get back to work. Well, eager-ish.
If you sent me a message while I was away and I haven’t responded yet, hang on just a little longer. I’m working through my emails so I’ll be in touch shortly. And if you’re been meaning to drop me a line but decided to wait till I got back, now’s the time. Knock yourself out.
(Picture: a barely-relevant holiday snap taken at Chengdu panda base.)