Writing and Editing for the Web

Tips from the Office of Communications and Marketing

Before you begin writing ask yourself:

  • Who is my target audience and what are their information needs?
  • What are my strategic goals?

Understanding Web readers

  • 79 percent scan rather than read information
  • Reading from a computer screen is 25 percent slower than reading from paper
  • Information is accessed non-sequentially, as users can enter a site at any page
  • They want to find information or answers quickly
  • They want to know where to go for more information
  • They don't always know exactly what they are looking for

Some Web writing basics:

  • Keep content short and simple
  • The shorter the better:
    • 4-8 word headlines
    • 25-50 word summary/intro sentences
    • single-sentence or 40-70 word paragraphs
  • Write great headlines and intro sentences (this is often the only text your visitor will read before linking to the next page)
  • Write for how people search (use words that are likely to be in the vernacular of the reader)
  • Include words that drive action (get the visitor to do something: 'apply now', 'read more about...', 'check out the SCU virtual tour'.
  • Write active content (Active-- 'You'll learn and live in a Residential Learning Community that will help you grow socially and academically'. Passive-- 'Santa Clara University offers residential learning communities where students grow socially and academically'.)
  • Add links to your content. Readers are more likely to read a paragraph that contains a link.
  • Bullets, boldface, and pull-quotes give readers reference points
  • Edit. Edit. Edit.  (Make sure it is clean and has no errors)

Before you publish your content, ask yourself:

  • Is it clear?
  • Is there a simpler way to say this?
  • Is there a shorter way to say this?
  • Is it necessary?

Search Engines: Will they pick up your Web site and key words?

  • Search engines rank keywords by starting at the top of a page.
  • Their priorities are: Titles, headlines, the first 25 words, and hyperlinked text.
  • The more you update your Web site homepage, the more search visits you will get.

Final Thoughts:

  • Content should only exist once within a site; but it can be linked to from multiple places.
  • Have expiration or review dates so your conent stays fresh.
  • Linking drives action and helps people get to the content they are looking for.
  • Avoid making readers scroll for information.
Additional information on creating Web content
Monthly Web Tips Go More pointers on how to create user friendly Web content