FAQs Upgrade: How the Library of Congress Regrouped to Improve Self-Service Content

by | Sep 28, 2010 | Writing Matters Blog | 0 comments

Many congratulations to Paul Weiss, Senior Cataloging Policy Specialist, in the Library of Congress’s Policy and Standards Division. After participating in an Advanced Writing for the Web course I recently taught, Paul rolled up his sleeves for a re-do of his FAQs page on cataloging.

Paul’s FAQs, intended for archivists and librarians, had become an apples-and-oranges list of 23 questions. Some of the FAQs were clearly written for librarians–What office is responsible for cataloging policy at the Library of Congress?–and others were for publishers–How can I get my publication cataloged? And, as we all know, a list of 23 FAQs is too long for users. Instead of using the 23 FAQs to answer their questions themselves, most users will just give up and send an e-mail or give you a call.

The old version of the Library of Congress’s FAQs about Cataloging




The new-and-improved version of the Library of Congress’s FAQs about Cataloging


The new FAQs are truly improved:

  • They have been sorted into three main categories–for the General Public, for Publishers, and for Librarians–and several subcategories.
  • They are written in first person. Now the FAQ reads How can I obtain information about cataloging when the old version read How can publishers obtain …
  • Some FAQs were eliminated, which means the old list of 23 was given a thorough content review.

Have a great before-and-after example you’d like to share? Let me know and I will feature your rewrite here.

— Leslie O’Flahavan

Tags: FAQs, Government web writing


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