How to write for the web

Web writing is like conversation. Think about your customers and the questions they have in mind when they are visiting your website. Try to answer their questions. Then focus on the essential message and cut the rest.

Do’s

  • Write facts and information.
  • Use a question, a statement or an action phrase with the key word for the heading.
  • Use “you” to talk to your site visitors.
  • Use “I” or “we” to talk about you or your organisation.
  • Cut adjectives and other unnecessary words.
  • Use common, well-known words and explain technical terms.
  • Keep the subject and the verb together.
  • Write in the active voice. 
Put the actor before the verb: 
“We will be happy to help you.”
  • Use the imperative for tips and instructions: “Sign in” “Fill out” “Send” “Click”.
  • Put important information on the top, less important stuff at the end of the page.
  • Use one sentence for one thought.
  • Use one paragraph for one topic.
  • Use lists to make information easy to grab.
  • Show numbers as numbers (9 instead of nine) but spell them out if they don’t represent specific facts.
  • Spell out the month (Oct. 10, 2010).
  • Tease out each step when giving instructions.

Don’ts

  • Avoid happy talk and marketing fluff.
  • Don’t use a single noun as heading.
  • Don’t use “he or she” or “the customer”, “the student” to talk to your site visitors.
  • Don’t talk in the third person about you or your organisation.
  • Don’t use technical language unless everyone you are communicating with shares this knowledge.
  • Don’t write in the passive voice.
  • Don’t tangle sentences.
  • Don’t write sentences with more than 15 words.
  • Don’t use paragraphs with more than 3 sentences.
  • Don’t put more than 10 items into one list.

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