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Guidelines for Writing for the Web

When writing content for the web, get your message across as quickly, say as little as possible, and put the most useful and relevant content first. Speak plainly and use a tone of voice that’s appropriate for your audience.

Say less

This is the most important thing. Because web users are generally scanning and not reading your text, the more concise the content, the better. A good approach is to write concisely, then cut, edit, boil down, paraphrase and finally trim.

Put important information first

Put essential information first. A quick overview helps the reader get the purpose of a page instantly, letting them make a quick judgement whether to read on for more detail.

Front-loading content

Put your most important content first. Doing so gets it above the “fold” and viewed without scrolling. It also aids scanning and helps the user to quickly decide whether to read on.

Front-loading also applies to paragraphs and sentences. Start paragraphs with the most relevant words, to work like a header to the paragraph.

Short and succinct

Remove any paragraphs, sentences and words that don’t directly help get your point across.

Use headlines and headings

A strong, attractive headline at the top of a page can make the difference between the page being read or not. So they attract the eye, headlines and lower-order headings benefit from being large and high-contrast. It needs a hook to catch your reader’s attention

Use headings within a document makes it easy to scan the document’s meaning. Good headings read like a bullet-point summary of the document’s contents, so a reader can scan down the page, get a quick idea of what’s there and decide whether to read on.

Web Link: 8 Examples of compelling headlines from

Consider the user’s goals

The imperative voice (commanding) is attention-grabbing, so it should go at the front of a phrase. “Register for our event ” “Subscribe to our listserv” “Place order”.

Be factual, not cryptic

Use an appropriate tone. Your tone of voice should be immediately appropriate to the audience, and their relationship with your web site.

Don’t be cryptic. Don’t assume you have your audience’s attention. You really have to work to grab someone’s attention online.

Be factual. Being factual means avoiding starting with questions. Bottom line – TELL THEM QUICK, before they go!

Establish trust

Remember you’re operating in an environment of low trust and you only have a short opportunity to get your message across. Be enthusiastic, but not pushy.

Use active voice

English grammar uses two ‘voices’: active and passive.

  • Active voice – is when something does something.
  • Passive voice – is when something is done to something.

Active good, Passive bad. This is because passive voice uses slightly more words than Active, and takes slightly more decoding.


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