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Writing for the web

Visitors to a website want to see immediately if the content is worth reading. The text should therefore be appealing and ‘scannable’.

Reading from a screen is more difficult than reading from paper. Furthermore, website visitors are often quick to click through to other sites. Here are five tips to makes sure they get the right information:

1. Get straight to the point

Start with the most important content, so get straight to the point.

2. Think about what brought the visitor to the site

Visitors often have specific questions they want a website to answer. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your target group and come up with questions they may want answered. When writing web content, think about whether the information is relevant and which of the visitor’s questions it might answer. So don’t think about what information you want to provide but rather about what information your target group is looking for.

3. Write ‘scannable’ content

Visitors ‘scan’ a website for keywords that correspond with their questions. If they don’t find what they want quickly, they leave. Make it easy for them with clear and ‘scannable’ text.

  • Use short sections.
  • Come up with good sub-headers: informative headers that contain possible search terms, so don’t use words like ‘General’ or ‘Introduction’.
  • Use lists.

4. Write concise, clear and appealing content

Keep it short. Get rid of superfluous words and sentences. Be clear and specific and give examples. Avoid bureaucratic language, jargon and the passive tense. Don’t just dump the text of policies, brochures and regulations onto the website, but edit it into short ‘scannable’ web content. If necessary, also provide the full text as a PDF that visitors can print out. Address your visitors directly whenever possible.

Some examples

Don’t say

  • On this site more information can be found about maternity leave.
  • You can register on this site for the Open Day.

But

  • Read more about maternity leave.
  • Register for the Open Day.

Don’t say

  • The funeral was attended by scores of people.

But

  • Scores of people attended the funeral.

5.  Use informative text in your links

Make it easier for the user by using informative text in your links.

Don’t say

  • Click here for information on the Archaeology programme.

But

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