Clever Blog Post Title Goes Here

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I write every paragraph four times—once to get my meaning down, once to put in anything I have left out, once to take out anything that seems unnecessary, and once to make the whole thing sound as if I had only just thought of it.-Margery Allingham


As you may have induced from the title of this post, I am not a writer. I included the quotation above to help illustrate why: it’s a lot of work. For many people (i.e., writers), that work is a labor of love. For others, trying to fill a blank page is like trying to cross the Taklamakan: no path looks particularly promising, and most lead to ruin and despair. I fall squarely into the latter category.



But here’s the thing: I love words and languages and grammars* and creative turns of phrase. When I hear or read an expression that strikes me as more interesting or effective than the one I would have chosen, I think “Where have you been all my life?” and adopt it immediately for future use. On the flip side, I struggle to maintain composure in the face of typos, errant punctuation, grammatical gaffes, and misused words; they have an effect on me similar to fingernails on a chalkboard. So what’s a guy to do? Answer: be an editor, a job for which my particular personality quirks prove quite useful.


Here at Avvo, my title is User Education Editor. My raison d’être is to help our users—consumers and lawyers alike—navigate the site (or a specific page or feature) to find the information they need. To that end, I work closely with the other members of our Product Team to ensure that the changes we make to the site fit seamlessly with existing content. Our product managers come up with the ideas for new features, our designers sketch things out, and I try to add just enough text to clarify any possible ambiguities and answer any questions a user might have about what they’re looking at or what to do next. It’s pretty straight-forward…most of the time.


As with any job, it helps to have the right tools. For editors, this means a good dictionary and style guide**. The Chicago Manual of Style had long been my go-to reference when guidance was needed, so I grumbled a bit when I found out that Avvo was using the AP Stylebook (we editors tend to have strong feelings on the subject). But I was assured that any disagreeable parts could be ignored, so don’t fret: you won’t see apostrophes hung out to dry on phrases like “the witness’ story” here. (If you do, please let me know!)


Occasionally, differences of opinion arise over what word or phrase will be the most effective at getting users to proceed to the next page, or fill in a form, or whatever. Another tool we recently added to the Product Team’s belt is helping to settle these differences with hard data: Optimizely. It lets us easily make changes to specific areas of the site and run very focused A/B tests against the current design. No longer must we derail our developers from their primary mission of building cool new features just to try out different design elements or verbiage on existing ones. It’s pretty awesome.


This concludes our latest look behind Avvo’s product development curtain. If you’re still reading this, I commend you for your stamina. And if you have a question or comment about the language we use on Avvo, I invite you to post it in the Comments area below. Avvo continues to evolve in form as well as function, and we welcome your input in charting the course of its development. After all, you’re the reason we’re here.


* It’s a word you don’t often see pluralized, but every language has one, and I love them all.

** I have a red pen too, but since most of my work is on the computer, I don’t get to use it much.

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