Writing for the Web

Be concise.

Keep word counts low, especially on landing 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 content.

When a webpage is constructed with a concise, thoughtful opening paragraph, a visitor can quickly get an accurate sense of the whole institution’s character. This helps increase visitor interest and attachment.

Use plain language.

Any visitor to your webpage should be able to quickly understand what you are communicating. One of the best ways to check your writing for clarity and effectiveness 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, callout boxes, and paragraph breaks—to economically 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. Contact the Office of Communications if you need advice or assistance.

Keep paragraphs short and use subheadings.

Along with short paragraphs, breaking up a page with subheadings helps a reader quickly determine what information matches their needs. “Overuse white space” is a good rule of thumb for web writing. It takes visitors an average of 25 percent longer to read from a computer or device screen than it does to read from paper. Short paragraphs and frequent subheadings make the process faster and more pleasant.