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Published on February 22nd, 2011 | by Rahel Bailie

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Writing templates

As much as content strategists and technologists love Excel spreadsheets, writers hate them. Technologists love Excel because you can migrate all the new content into the CMS by writing a little script. Writers, on the other hand, want to use Word. Technologists hate Word because it adds hidden codes that can wreak havoc with the CSS unless they’re stripped out, but creating some sort of Word document for the writers seems to be the way to go because of the combination of needing to visualize a page as they’re writing for it, and their comfort level of this ubiquitous word processing program.

A typical writing template could look something like this. Ignore the headers and footers, and any other global navigation items. You can create a table that loosely mirrors the wireframe of each page type, and let the writers fill in the table cells. Unless there is an absolute need to set word or character count limits, it’s a good idea to leave it flexible. Ideally, the design conforms to the content, not the content to the design.

To use the template as a “cheat sheet,” additional information can be provided, depending on what is useful to the writers. If the writers are remote workers, extra information can be particularly helpful to provide context.


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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,



3 Responses to Writing templates

  1. Scott Pierce says:

    It’s great to see the writing template, the least sexy and most crucial deliverable. At many of the shops, the page template with standard formatting was the go-to document. You’re right, the drawback was that both clients and developers felt disoriented.

    Even with annotated wireframes calling out which content to put in which cell, it was more anxiety for the client to take the time to grok, meaning content still came late. Meanwhile, developers understandably grumbled while extracting content. Everyone felt they were making due.

    What’s refreshing and worth sharing is the way this is presented. It gives the right visual cues and context to both parties. Sometimes in UX work, we need to recalibrate our AX (Author Experience) and TX (Texas! Uh… no, Technical Experience). It’s okay to break from the boilerplate for the sake of clarity.

    Outstanding! The more groundwork that is put into structured documents, the easier it is to examine how content is integrated into a workflow. Vendors such as Information Mapping are making Word-to-XML tools, and our devs can even run scripts against our plain old properly-formatted templates. Life can be good again.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Writing templates | Intentional Design Inc. -- Topsy.com

  3. Becks says:

    So, would this copy template be done up in Word? Or Excel?

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