Writing for the web

DoIT Communications suggested guidelines on writing for the web

Web copy is different from written copy. Some people will read every word we write. Most will just skim.

Be user focused

We frame our content in a fashion to best meet user needs.

  • As a [user], I want to [do something], so I can [meet a need]
  • Once you have that information, use it to guide your copy writing.

Use plain language

  • When we use words people understand, our content is more findable, accessible, and inclusive.
  • When we use jargon in our writing, we risk losing users’ trust. Government, legal, business jargon are often vague or unfamiliar to users, and can lead to misinterpretation.

Important info first

Create a hierarchy of information. Lead with the main point or the most important content, in sentences, paragraphs, sections, and pages.

Be concise

Use short words and sentences. Avoid unnecessary modifiers.

Be specific

Avoid vague language. Cut out fluff.

TL;DR (too long, didn’t read)

  • If you put too much copy on your page, chances are, it won't all get read. Try not to do this.
  • Research shows that 79% scan and 16% actually read web content.
  • Short, concise paragraphs and bulleted lists work best for web use.

Do not underline text

Underline = link. Giving a sentence an underline for emphasis is misleading.

Chunk content

  • Chunking is a strategy to layout our web content in small digestible pieces, which has shown to improve comprehension. It calls for shorter paragraphs, or breaking up your paragraphs with bullet points.
  • Group related ideas together and use descriptive headings and subheadings.

First sentence

Engage the reader by teasing what they will get out of the article.

First paragraph is also important

We aim to encourage the user to read more. We aim to be brief, clear, and cover broader concepts. Place the most important information at the top, extra info toward the bottom.

Use short paragraphs

In most cases, it’s best to use subheadings to clarify the subject of various sections on a page. Users want to skim and scan for information. Headings help this process exponentially.

People read in an “F” shape pattern.

Web content is read in a F-Shaped pattern
Nielson Norman Group. F-Shaped Pattern for Reading,  2006

This tells us:

  • Users won't read your text thoroughly
  • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information.
  • Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with key words

Type your edited article out completely. Then, look again to cut your text until it is reduced to the most essential info.




Keywords:plain language writing f-pattern jargon user focused concise specific chunking web digital document   Doc ID:97970
Owner:ERIK G.Group:DoIT Communications KB
Created:2020-02-14 15:41 CDTUpdated:2020-06-01 08:03 CDT
Sites:DoIT Communications KB, DoIT Help Desk
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