Writing for the Web

  • Write clear, simple and effective content. The content of your site should be easy to read for everyone, preferably in a conversational style. Remember your audience is varied, school leavers, mature students, international students and staff. 
  • Front-load your text. Put the most important content on your page in the first paragraph. Readers will scan your pages you want them to see your main ideas or points of information.
  • Group your content. Cover only one topic per paragraph.
  • Be concise. Write short paragraphs and minimize unnecessary words.
  • Write in active voice instead of passive voice. (Ex: ‘Tim taught the class’, instead of ‘the class was taught by Tim’.) See our list of active words below.
  • Use lists. When possible use lists to make your content easier to scan.

Length

Limit page length. Web readers don't mind scrolling, but don't make the page a mile long!

Be Brief and Direct...

Writing content for the internet is not the same as writing it for a print publication. If you have a print document that you want to bring to the web, remember this very simple rule: a page on the web should be half the length of a similar print document. 300-700 words is a reasonable length for content.

What do you do if you have more than 700 words? It's simple. You need to look at the structure of that content and break it down into sections, leading people to specific portions of the text as much as possible. It is your job as a web author to guide your site viewers to the content you want them to consume.

... But not too brief 

A page should have at least one paragraph of content.

  • Create independent content.
  • Create headlines and copy that stand on their own.
  • Site viewers tend to scan content looking for relevant headings.
  • Topics and sections in Web sites are not necessarily intended to be sequential. As such, it’s best to create content for each page that is not dependent on other sections. Related links can help to guide the reader to background or explanatory information.
  • Don’t assume that the reader has already scanned information on the prior page, or even the home page.

Tone

Online readers expect a personal, upbeat tone in web writing. Users find formal academic writing to be out of place and they tend to ignore the message being conveyed. Regularly check the tone of your writing. Search out and destroy jargon. 

Active Voice

It is important to write in an active voice. For example, "We will customise the curriculum for your department," rather than the passive voice, "The curriculum will be customised for your department". The active voice emphasises the "doer" of the action, which is naturally less formal.

Scanability

Users read differently when reading off a screen:

  • Users will scan a page looking for headings that they deem relevant
  • Average users will read up to 25% slower on screen compared to print

Therefore your text needs to be scannable. Clearly defined headings will allow users to locate content quickly. 

  • Make sure all main pages are easily scannable.
  • Keep your visitors' interest by making your headlines and navigation items obvious and relevant.
  • Use appropriate text formatting, such as bolding and italics to draw the eye to important points.
  • Don’t hide your links to other content by changing the colour or removing the underline.
  • These cues help visitors quickly find what they are looking for.

Links

Write clear links. Don't create links that use the phrase 'click here.' Write the sentence as you normally would, and place the link anchor on the word or words that best describe the additional content to which you are linking. Between one and five words is the ideal length for the text of an effective hypertext link.

A style guide establishes standards for the writing and design of documents and websites. Below you will find a link to UCC's style guide. The purpose of this document is to help contributors to UCC's websites to be consistent in terms of writing style, use of capitalisation, date formats, titles, etc.

Style Guide

Language Style Guide

Don't be passive! Use the words below to emphasise the do-er and create more engaging content.
• Add
• Arrange
• Address
• Adjust
• Analyse
• Award
• Attain
• Attend
• Build
• Begin
• Boost
• Calculate
• Check
• Connect
• Correct
• Create
• Cause
• Collect
• Confirm
• Commence
• Earn
• Estimate
• Enable
• Evaluate
• Explain
• Effect
• Educate
• Fix
• Fund
• Facilitate
• Fund
• Gather
• Generate
• Guide
• Handle
• Highlight
• Help
• Identify
• Illustrate
• Increase
• Inspect
• Interact
• Influence
• Inform
• Improve
• Learn
• Lighten
• Listen
• Located
• List
• Lead
• Maintain
• Master
• Mentor
• Modify
• Monitor
• Mediate
• Manage
• Narrate
• Notify
• Navigate
• Observe
• Obtain
• Operate
• Orientate
• Participate
• Plan
• Prepare
• Publish
• Qualify
• Raise
• Rate
• Recommend
• Record
• Recruit
• Refer
• Register
• Relate
• Renew
• Repair
• Respond
• Review
• Revise
• Revamp
• Save
• Schedule
• Search
• Select
• Serve
• Share
• Show
• Simplify
• Sold
• Solve
• Sort
• Strengthen
• Structure
• Study
• Submit
• Specify
• Stage
• Start
• Supply
• Support
• Surpass
• Survey
• Target
• Taught
• Teach
• Test
• Trace
• Trade
• Train
• Transfer
• Travel
• Tutor
• Uncover
• Update
• Upgrade
• Use
• Utilize
• Validate
• Verify
• Visit
• View
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