Journal: News & Comment

Wednesday, May 26, 2004
# 11:24:00 AM:

Simple boldface saves a long article

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If you don't subscribe to Salon, get a day pass and check out today's article on top 10 U.S. mistakes in Iraq by former American general and Mideast envoy Anthony Zinni. (You could also try this other transcript instead.)

Aside from the content, note how Salon uses one simple mechanism to make the article more readable on the Web: boldface. Even without reformatting the rest of the words (as I have done in my first phase of a web editing experiment), Zinni's piece becomes exponentially more readable on the Web, because you can skim it. Even without reading any details, you can see the 10 points with a few clicks:

  1. "misjudging the success of containment"
  2. "the strategy was flawed"
  3. "We had to create a false rationale"
  4. "We failed, in No. 4, to internationalize the effort"
  5. "we underestimated the task"
  6. "propping up and trusting the exiles"
  7. "the lack of planning" (they forgot to boldface this one)
  8. "the insufficiency of military forces on the ground"
  9. "ad hoc organization"
  10. "a series of bad decisions on the ground"

The small typo of not boldfacing #7 forced me to read more thoroughly. Fortunately, Zinni actually wrote "the seventh problem," so it was easy to find. But it reinforces how easy the others are to track down, and how even something as simple as a typographical change can improve online comprehension.

UPDATE: Here's another copy of the transcript, with similar highlighting (including the seventh item), and which doesn't require you to register to see it. Thanks to Jak King for the link.


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