Guidelines for editing and writing web content
Learn how to make your web pages easier to read, user friendly and easier for search engines to find.
- Who is your audience? (e.g. students, prospective students, staff etc)
- What do they want from this page?
- What is the purpose of the page?
- What words would your target audience use?
Text should be
- Written for the reader, not the writer
- In Plain English
- Easy to scan
Use Plain English
- Simple, familiar words
- Short sentences (maximum 20 words)
- Short paragraphs (ideally no more than 65 words)
- 'you' and 'we'
- Use the active voice (reduce passive verbs)
- Use positive language
- Structure content for your intended reader
- Use University Editorial Style Guide (staff only)
Create white space around your text
- Plenty of headlines
- Short sentences
- Short paragraphs (occasionally just one line)
- Short lists or bullet points
Say it concisely
- Don’t waste words but be generous with information
- Aim to reduce text by 50%.
- If a page needs to be long, make sure it is concise
- Reduce background,’ history’ and hype. People want information or action on every page
Front load information
People are scanning and searching for information. Put your main point first.
- At the top of the page
- In sentences
- In each paragraph or block of writing
Create content that can be easily scanned
- Relevant, consistent and meaningful headings with a logical hierarchy
- Content is well organised and easily to navigate
- Use easy-to-read text styles (text is left aligned, no italics or solid capitals)
- Put key ideas at the top of the page and at the start of each paragraph
- The first three or four words in a paragraph should be the most important
- Use short lists or bullet points
- Make sure images have captions
Communicate within a few seconds
- Specific, explanatory headings (think of them as headlines)
- 4 – 10 word headline specific to the content below
- Write small blocks and use bullet points well
- Meaningful image captions and alt-text
Training and resources
- Learn to write and edit web content - Essential web writing skills in 10 short online courses
- Redundant phrases (Garbl's writing center website) - Tips to help you write concise content
- Writing for the Web (Rutgers University website) - Tips to get your reader's attention
- Standard and checklists for writing plain language (Plain English Power website)
- Plain English tips (Plain English Power website)