Writing for the Web

9 February 2009
Ben Logan

Author: Ben Logan

Passionate about improving services and experiences for the people that use them.

What are the key considerations for writing for the web and how can you improve the copy on your own site?

How do users read on the web?

Studies show that users scan rather than read website pages, so it is important that you improve legibility with:

  • Bullets points (no more than 5-10 items)
  • Short punchy paragraphs
  • Use bold where applicable
  • Do not use italics as these are hard to read
  • Do not use underline as these are reserved for hyperlinks

Labeling of content

  • Label paragraphs where you can
  • Start the body copy with a description
  • Give the message you are trying to convey in the first 10 words
  • Be specific not general
  • Write positive headings: say what something is, not what it isn’t
  • Do not repeat keywords too obviously or often

Writing style

Try and write as you speak and read back your copy to make sure it sounds correct.

It is important to use a consistent tone and style of writing throughout youth website. If it is too formal the website may seem cold and inhuman, and if it is too informal the site can seem pushy and rude.

Using mini-words

Beware of mini-words, short common words of one, two, three letters e.g. in, off, by, for, he, of, get etc

Mini-word clusters can confuse international readers, so avoid:

  • Word clich├ęs (e.g. in terms of, for the purpose of, in position to)
  • Colloquial expressions and slang (e.g. at the end of the day)
  • Phrases verbs (e.g. Go on about, put off, let on)

A dozen tips for writing rich websites

We have highlighted a few tips for writing good web copy:

  • Create scannable pages
  • Write short paragraphs and tight sentences
  • Label your paragraphs
  • Be yourself. Write conversationally
  • Appeal with “You” centered language
  • Beware of mini-words
  • Persuade without marketing speak
  • Chunk the information into “Bite-sized bits”
  • Check your pages after uploading
  • Keep content fresh
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