Writing for the Web

Gone are the days of sitting down and reading something cover to cover. Time is valuable and people need to be able to find the information they want, fast. Here are some tips to ensure that you’re communicating with your audience efficiently and clearly.

Be succinct: Online audiences skim content and seldom read the entire page. Don’t change the message but be ruthless with editing and focus on reducing word counts by 50 per cent of its paper equivalent.

Keep sentences short: Sentences should be as concise as possible. Only use the words you need to get the essential information across.

Keep paragraphs short: Keep to the format of one paragraph for each key idea.

Know your audience: Avoid jargon, abbreviations or complicated phrases that will confuse your audience group or come across as inauthentic. Keep writing factual and objective in tone.

Use meaningful headings and subheadings: Headings help users to scan and efficiently navigate a web page. It also lets them know what the page is about. Puns and creative titles work in print, but if someone needs information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, calling your web page “The dark side of winter” doesn’t offer much insight or help.

Never underline words for emphasis: An underlined word indicates a link.

YELLING A SENTENCE DOESN’T MAKE IT MORE IMPACTFUL: Keep all caps to headings or avoid them altogether.

Use lists: Itemizing helps break out information into clear, bite-sized, easily consumed chunks. When making lists, use bullets instead of numbers, unless the order is important.

Start with a conclusion: Tell the user at the start what information is contained on the page. People rarely read to the end of a web page so if there is something you want communicated, do it up front while you have a reader’s attention.

Avoid offensive, derogatory or discriminatory language: If in doubt, contact the Communications Department for guidance.

Keep information up to date: Outdated information destroys credibility, increases liability and has an impact on search results.

Avoid web terms: Links are a great place to describe the information found at the linked page. Instead of “click here” or “follow this link” use something interesting like “check out more sugar-free chocolate cake recipes.”

Avoid duplicating information: If specific information can be found somewhere else on the PHC website, link to it instead of rewriting it in a second location.

Inbound links: Ensure that your site is linked to the PHC website in several places. This helps with your site’s search results and affirms your authenticity as a PHC department.

Proofread your work: Typos and spelling errors discredit information and will send people away from your pages. Make sure you proofread everything you post.

For tips on our organizational standards for writing, including grammar, spelling and capitalization rules, check out our Editorial Standards Guide.