Content: Guidelines for editing and writing web content - Writing for the web - Web Team - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

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.

Think about

  • 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
  • Concise
  • 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