Writing for the web

Writing for the web

“How do readers read on the web?
The answer – they don’t.”

                                                          - Jakob Nielsen, web content guru

Unlike writing for print, writing for the web should be quick, concise and easy to follow for screen-weary eyes.

Reading words on a computer screen is tedious. Visitors to websites are most likely scanning, grabbing the information they need and leaving again. Think about how long you stay on a web page before moving to the next one. Assume other web surfers have even shorter attention spans, and write accordingly.

Our goal, as web content providers, is to make it as easy as possible for people to get the information they need about Brock.

Consider the following tips:

  1. Keep it short. If possible, pages should have no more than 500 words, paragraphs no more than 70, and sentences no more than 20.
  2. Use plain language. It benefits everyone. Bureaucratic phrases like “due diligence” are commonplace in the work world, but content posted to Brock’s site should be easily understood for those with an eight grade reading level. Plain language is an accessibility issue, and it helps readers for whom English is a second language. 
  3. For a page of text, use “inverted pyramid.” This term describes a writing method of putting the most important information at the top, followed by information of decreasing importance as the article progresses. If important information is buried in a page of text, web readers are less likely to find it.
  4. Consider your audience. Many people write for their colleagues and members of their own department. For pages designed to inform prospective students, look at it through their eyes when it comes to text and presentation.
  5. Use the active voice, and get rid of "helper" words. Rather than “Joe was running,” use “Joe ran.” Both make the writing tighter, more engaging and more immediate.

There are currently no Writing for the Web training session scheduled. Please contact Erica Bajer at x4420 for more information.  

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