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Write for the Web

Writing for the web is different. And it's the same.

It's Different

Some people look at websites on a large display monitor, some people use a little tablet. Or their phone. The way display screens are backlit can make your eyes bug out after a while. The way a page is organized can have you thumbing and scrolling around (and getting irritated?) trying to figure out where things are. So let's make it easy:

  • Use a descriptive page title that matches the navigation menu
  • Start each paragraph with the main point, then add the details
  • Use subheads to break up big chunks of text and help visitors skim the topics
  • Does your content include a group of short, related items? Use a bulleted list instead a long sentence with lots of commas or semi-ccolons

See how nice that is? Four quick suggestions, all lined up for you.

If you find yourself with a very long web page, consider breaking your content into several different pages so that each page focuses on a single topic. Be sure to organize the pages so the content is layered and unfolds in a natural, logical way.

It's the Same

The best writing style for the widest audience, across all media, is clear, plain language. Einstein had it right when he said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Let's make an effort to give that gift to our web visitors. In rare instances, specialized terms or complex language might be needed for accuracy.

Our goal with A&S websites is to meet our audiences where they are. Our biggest audiences are prospective undergraduate students and their parents. Whatever their background (and chances are, it's not academia), we want them to understand what we do and how they might fit into our community.

A great resource here is the Plain Language Guidelines adopted by the U.S. government. In addition to clarity, the guidelines address questions of accessibility. Here's an example from their website:

Don't say Say
If the State Secretary finds that an individual has received a payment to which the individual was not entitled, whether or not the payment was due to the individual’s fault or misrepresentation, the individual shall be liable to repay to State the total sum of the payment to which the individual was not entitled. If the State agency finds that you received a payment that you weren’t entitled to, you must pay the entire sum back.

We recommend visiting and using their web resources!

Remember: Your content is not useful if no one reads it.