Guide to writing Web content

User behavior

  • Users roam from page to page to try to find the most pertinent information in the least amount of time possible.
  • Users skim rather than read word for word. They scan headlines, subheadings, links, numerals and keywords.

General writing best practices

  • Use simple sentence structures with few introductory clauses.
  • Write in an active voice and use active verbs.
  • Limit acronyms and abbreviations unless they are well understood and defined on the page.
  • Avoid metaphors, puns and indirect language.
  • Avoid jargon and slang that won’t be understood by a varied and global audience.
  • Be a good editor. Always double-check your content.

Page body

  • Place the most important facts near the top.
  • Avoid empty chatter such as welcome text.
  • Make every page able to stand on its own. Do not assume the reader saw the previous screen.
  • Keep paragraphs short with only one main idea per paragraph.
  • Find ways to break up your page into segments with headings, subheadings and lists.

Headings and subheadings

  • Headings are important because they grab the reader’s attention.
  • Place one or two keywords in headings that will signal to the reader what information is on the page.
  • Select a word, phrase or idea from the paragraphs that will make the reader want to keep reading.
  • Be direct, avoiding puns and metaphors in headings.

Links within the page body

  • Use links within paragraphs sparingly, to refer users to relevant information, but don’t let links overcrowd the content and become a distraction.
  • Put only highly important links within a page’s body.
  • Avoid phrases such as “click here.”
  • Place links that will interrupt the reader’s flow at the end of the document.
  • Put less relevant links at the end of the document.

Writing by the numbers

  • Web content should have only about half the word count of its paper equivalent.
  • Longer documents are generally useful only when the reader may want to print the content as one entire page.
  • Paragraphs should contain no more than six sentences.