Jumpstart the New Year with a File Naming Protocol

Cat and File CabinetContent management is the process of managing content–no shock there, right? There are numerous methodologies and software packages available for large and small-scale needs. However, one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to begin content management is to establish a file naming protocol, which is simply a guideline for file labeling.

Whether you are creating a protocol for an entire organization or your home office, the trick is to create a standard—and then stick with it. A few examples include:

  • Department_Project_Date (e.g., Retail_Menu1_Jan13)
  • Project_Author_Date (e.g., Menu1_ErinW_04Jan13)
  • Period_Project_Date (e.g., FirstQRT_Tax_01Mar13)

You can also include version information in your file names, such as:

  • Retail_Menu1_V1_05Jan13
  • Retail Menu1_V2_13Feb13

When including version information, always revise the date, as shown above, otherwise all of the versions will look like they were created at the same time.

Once all of your files are labeled consistently, they will be much easier to organization within individual folders. And, if you do have to use your computer’s search function to hunt for a lost file, having a general idea of the naming structure will expedite the search, even if you don’t remember the exact name.

So, why not begin 2013 with a brand-spankin’ new file naming protocol? But beware, next thing you know, you’ll be organizing that junk draw in the kitchen!

In the next blog post, we’ll delve deeper into the mechanics of file naming  and explore the implications of renaming existing files.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in general business content, marketing, blogs, web copy, and instructional material.

A Closing Thought on Minimalist Communication (For Now): The Peanuts Visit the Museum of Science and Industry

Chuck and Me with Caption

I am a huge fan of both The Peanuts and the Museum of Science and Industry, so when the museum opened Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit, I jumped on the first available train to Hyde Park. And it was worth the trip!

The exhibit provides a broad overview of the life of The Peanuts’ creator, Charles M. Schulz, as well as the evolution of the comic strip and the individual characters. While last year’s Dr. Seuss exhibit focused on statues and paintings, this presentation is driven by text and large-scale wall graphics—although there is a replica of Mr. Schulz’s office and  one giant Charlie Brown statue perfectly placed for photo ops!

But what does the beloved Peanuts gang have to do with writing and editing for business? Well, other than the fact that Lucy is certainly a top-notch entrepreneur, the comic strip medium is another superb example of minimalist communication. Complete stories unfold with sparse dialog and just a few drawings. In fact, some of Mr. Schulz’s strips don’t offer any dialog at all! Yet even without words, we always know when Snoopy was about to fly into battle on his trusty Sopwith Camel.

This exhibit certainly isn’t about business, though. It is a salute to an imaginary world that has become much more than just a daily laugh in the back of the local newspaper. The Peanuts give us a glimpse into the joys and tribulations of our own childhoods…and the fact that happiness is a warm puppy.*

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in general business content, marketing, blogs, web copy, and instructional material.

 

*In loving memory of our Cairn Terrier. You’ll always be the Snoopy to my Charlie Brown.

Word Count versus Efficiency:
Graduating from Academic Bloat to Business Brevity

Bubble letter writing in academic paperDo you remember those dreaded five-page essays in high school English? If you were anything like me, you’d widen your page margins and switch from the default Times New Roman font to Arial because Arial is just a little bit bigger.  Or, if typing wasn’t required, your handwriting would suddenly go from tiny scratches to giant bubble letters. Anything to fill those five pages as quickly as possible, with the least amount of writing, right?

Nearly all English teachers are (and were) hip to these tricks. In fact, my college professors enforced strict rules concerning margins, font styles, and line spacing. One particularly ornery professor actually measured margins with a wooden ruler before accepting assignments. Cranky! 

Unfortunately, these academic conventions can have a negative effect on our writing later in life. Many employees concentrate on creating long content, rather than good content, because they want to impress the boss with a “big” report or article.

While there are probably a few bosses out there who still believe that bigger is better, page length and word count are not the endgame of business writing. In fact, business-related content should convey the message as effectively and efficiently as possible. And as mentioned in my previous parking lot post, minimalist communication has the potential to maximize results.

Here are a few tips to avoid wordiness:

  • When appropriate, use an active voice instead of a passive voice:
    • Passive voice: The car was dented by a meteorite.
    • Active voice:  A meteorite dented the car.
  • Cut unnecessary prepositions (e.g., of) and determiners (e.g., the):
    • Original:  The professor suggested that the origin of the artwork was unknown.
    • Edit: The professor suggested that the artwork’s origin was unknown.
  • Avoid excessive -ly adverbs with strong adjectives (e.g., awful):
    • Original: The broccoli soup tasted really awful.
    • Edit: The broccoli soup tasted awful.

Of course, if you are writing a term paper, you may want to ignore these tips completely.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in general business content, marketing, blogs, web copy, and instructional material.