Effective web writing follows an inverted pyramid style. The most important information is presented first, with additional supporting details to follow. By putting the main idea first, readers can decide if the content is relevant and either read more or move on.
- Be concise
- Start with the conclusion, then follow with the details
- Know your audience and make it easy for them to find the info they need
- Each paragraph should have only one main idea
Write this way because web readers generally
- Scan pages
- Pick out key words and phrases
- Read in quick, short bursts
- Are action-oriented
- Click and forage in search of bits of information that lead them towards a goal
- Welcome people to your website and explain what a website is.
- Put your mission statement on your homepage. It’s unlikely that visitors are searching for that information.
- Organize your website and write content to reflect your organization structure. Instead, organize content and write with the site visitor in mind.
- Put every piece of printed content you have on your website. If our visitors don’t need it and you can’t maintain it, don’t put it on our site.
- Post a PDF version of a document unless necessary. PDFs can pose issues with accessibility. If there is a business need to post a PDF document, contact firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you make your document accessible (required by law, A&M policy).
- Recreate information that already exists. Instead, link to other portions of our site or other sites.
Use the APA Style Guide.
Remove out-of-date content. This sounds obvious but keeping content current can be difficult. Take an inventory of your site and make a list of every page that has content that will expire, then add reminders to your calendar for each instance.
Remove irrelevant content. Think of your audience, what information do they need from your site? Remove everything else.
Use the active voice. When writing in the active voice, the subject does the action (e.g. “The president released a statement.”) When writing in the passive voice, the subject receives the action (e.g. “A statement was released by the president.”)
Use simple words. You don’t need to impress your readers. People read simple words faster.
Use descriptive links. Your users should know what to expect when clicking a link. When providing links in your content (contextual links). Example:
- Bad: For more information about admissions, click here.
- Better: Learn more about admissions requirements for our MD program.
Use bulleted or numbered lists. Lists create chunks of content that facilitates scanning. For steps in a process, use numbered lists and action-oriented imperatives. Use lists for options, steps or items.
Use numerals. When writing numbers, particularly as they represent facts, use numerals instead of words (i.e., 5 instead of five)
Introductory text. A short intro should summarize the page in one to two sentences. Research shows that some readers skip the introductory text on web pages if it’s not presented in a concise fashion.
Keep search in mind, use words that your target audiences use when searching. Ways to identify words your users search by:
- Ask them—in conversations, focus groups, surveys
- Check your web analytics
General guidelines for reducing your word count.
- Headings: 8-10 words or less
- Sentences: 15-20 words
- Paragraphs: 40-70 words