Life is too short for FAQs

If I’ve ever found the answer to one of my questions by sifting through an FAQ, such an event was so rare that I no longer look at FAQs. There may be a few useful ones here and there, but I don’t waste my time hunting for them. Life is too short.

As a person who writes and edits for a living, I confess that I’ve been involved in creating an FAQ page or two for a website. I hope they’ve long since been deleted, and I would not be surprised if they were never updated. FAQs are prone to being neglected.

Your first question

A few tips:

  • When someone wants you to create an FAQ, ask your first and most important question: Why?
  • Whatever the response is, ask your second and third questions: What are those frequently asked questions? What are the answers?
  • If you get a list of questions and answers, make sure the information – not the Q&A – is easy to find, in context, where the web visitor can find it without having to go to an FAQ.
  • If you don’t get a list of questions and answers, be glad you don’t have to create an FAQ.

Life is too short. Don’t waste anyone’s time on something that is almost always a bad idea

B.J.

Nobody “falls off” a bicycle

Enough of this nonsense about Joe Biden falling off a bicycle.

Nobody falls off a bicycle unless said bicycle was stationary and remained upright after the person who was on top of it somehow ended up on the ground or pavement or garage floor or wherever the bicycle remains stationary.

If a bicycle is moving and rider and bicycle suddenly both end up on the ground or pavement … or whatever, the cyclist has crashed.

As an experienced bicycle operator who has crashed a number of times – and in the process broken multiple ribs and one pelvis, incurred at least one minor concussion, and experienced countless bloodied knees and elbows – I can testify that in none of those mishaps did my bicycle remain upright.

I have never fallen off of my bike, even when I was new to those so-called “clipless” pedals and slowed down and forgot – as everyone does, sooner or later – to unclip.

I crashed. Joe Biden crashed. I watched the video and his bicycle clearly ended up on the pavement with him.

If you’ve never crashed while riding your bicycle, you need to get out more. If you’ve fallen off a stationary bike, I don’t know what to say.

Pedal on, my friends. Pedal on.

B.J.

P.S. Yes, as a professional writer and editor, I think words are important. Editors get paid for being those people who distinguish between falling and crashing. Being a pain in the ass is one of the benefits.

Advice for writers: Don’t call yourselves something else

A documentarian is someone who makes documentaries, right?

That’s what I’ve always thought and my favorite dictionary agrees with me, which makes it an excellent dictionary.

Some time ago, however, I came across a group for writers called Write the Docs – a “global community of people who care about documentation.”

Just a suggestion…

The people call themselves documentarians.

I get their monthly newsletter and that word bugs the hell out of me. (I know what Wiktionary says on the topic, but I don’t care and neither should you. It’s Wiktionary, for crying out loud.)

I’m sure WtD is an otherwise fine organization that meets the needs of some thousands of humans who write and edit documentation and so on. The website has lots of links that various types of writers will find valuable.

What I don’t see on the site under the “Job listings” heading are any jobs for documentarians. That use of the word may catch on more widely someday, and even land in my favorite dictionary, where you can already find documentalist.

My advice? Don’t use either of those words on your résumé if you want to find a job.

Write on,

B.J.

What I want for Christmas: a satellite, a force field, peace…

Someone asked what I want for Christmas, so here’s a list:

photo of satellite
Eye in the sky, image by PIRO4D from Pixabay 
  • My own spy satellite.
  • A force field around my bicycle to repel motor vehicles. (Two if you can swing it. One for me and one for Mrs. Smith.)
  • Peace on Earth.
  • A massive worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2020.
  • A non-criminal POTUS.
  • Everyone to know the difference between tenet and tenant.
  • An end to the senseless arguments about Harvard commas, which we all know are just regular commas that are often used when they’re unnecessary.

Please be sure to reply to all so everyone knows what you’re getting me. I don’t want two satellites and no Peace on Earth.

Write on,

B.J.

Learning Gutenberg over a beer

So this, apparently, is Gutenberg. It’s time to learn something new in WordPress world. I can’t say I’m excited, but at least it will keep me out of trouble for a little while. An ice-cold Dale’s Pale Ale will be my companion for now so don’t been surprised if my typing deteriorates as we go along.

hot air ballloon
Caption goes here, something about balloons.

Everything in this new Gutenberg editor is a block, or goes in a block. My first challenge is/was to insert an image aligned right, with text wrapped around it. As you can see, I managed to figure that out. It took a couple of tries, but now that I know how to do it I’m feeling pretty good about it. (Any reason we can’t celebrate even the smallest of achievements?)

My first mistake was inserting the image on the page before I did anything else – I guess I was just being contrary, because who would do that, right? – and then trying to drag the picture into place after I added some text. There may be a way to do that, but now I see that it’s simpler to create some text and then position my cursor at the beginning of a paragraph (or somewhere else in the text) and then find insert before or insert after on the More options menu that magically appears when I move my cursor. It’s the little box with a vertical row of three dots. I imagine there’s an actual term for that but don’t really care in this context of just typing stuff to fill up space.

Each paragraph is a block on its own, as I see now after paying attention to what happens when you hit the Enter key.

Nobody I know uses drop caps, but I can see how the ability to drop a cap now and then might be worthwhile. Getting it to stay dropped takes a little experimenting, or at least it did for me. Who would have guessed that you don’t really see the effect until you move along to the next paragraph/block?

Even headings are in their own blocks.

There’s a special block for inserting quoted material, too. Nifty.

Copyright 2018 B.J. Smith

The beer can is empty now so I’m going to wrap this up. Maybe another time I’ll tell you about how I learned to set lead type by hand and printed a small book of poetry. Or maybe not. I think of that whenever I see or hear Gutenberg’s name. Same thing happens whenever I’m in Guttenberg. even though it has an extra t.

Bonus beer fact

The best place in the world to drink Dale’s Pale Ale is the Tasty Weasel, which is just a short bicycle ride from where I’m sitting right now. It don’t git no fresher.

Cheers,

B.J.