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Public Affairs and Communications (PubCom)

Writing for the Web

Writing for the web requires a different approach than writing for other venues. Here are our top suggestions for community members creating content for the Lewis & Clark website.

Have a question about your website? Contact New Media.
Be concise.

Keep word counts low, especially on top-level pages that should be telling the story rather than conveying lots of detailed information. Most basic informational pages ought to be no longer than 400-500 words.

Use an opening paragraph to summarize page content.

When an entire site is constructed with concise, thoughtful opening paragraphs, a visitor can browse the site quickly and get a well-rounded accurate sense of the whole institution’s character. This helps increase visitor interest and attachment.

Use plain language.

Reading through a webpage, any visitor should be able to quickly understand what you are communicating to them. One of the best ways to check the style of web writing is to read it to yourself out loud. If it sounds natural, it’s likely to be good.

Use text formatting, like bulleted lists, pull quotes, and paragraph breaks, to quickly convey information.

Most basic content pages shouldn’t have more than one or two bulleted or numbered lists. If you have a page that is burdened with lots of lists, you may want to consider alternative ways of presenting that content.

Keep paragraphs short and use subheadings.

Along with short paragraphs, breaking up a page with subheadings helps a reader quickly determine what information matches her needs. “Overuse white space” is a good rule of thumb for web writing. Reading from
computer screens is on average 25 percent slower than from paper. Short paragraphs and frequent subheadings give users more room to read.

Web Content Guide (PDF) Tips for Academic Departments (PDF) Tips for Administrative Offices (PDF)