Writing for the Web
Users want to find what they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible. Web-oriented writing and editing are essential for optimal content delivery.
- Omit non-essential words. Users don't read -- they scan.
- Use "inverted pyramid" writing style: start with the point, then support it, using links for more in-depth details.
- One idea per paragraph.
- Keep the most important elements "above the fold," that is, visible upon initial page view without scrolling.
- Categorize according to users' needs, not by departmental organization or hierarchy.
- When creating a link, highlight only the one-to-three most important words, NOT "click here."
- Facilitate scanning with subheads, bullet points, lists, and captions.
- Provide links to related and additional detail.
- Use an active voice: "The company published the book."
- Use lists or tables when possible.
- Expect your visitors to read everything.
- Put everything on one page.
- Use a passive voice: "The book was published by the company."
- List items in a paragraph to save room.
Consistency of Style
The only web constant is change. Stylistic debates continue ("Is it E-mail, e-mail, or email?"). Style manuals will help, but the most important style and usage point, one that cannot be emphasized enough, is consistency. You must adhere to the style you choose.
A to Z Style Guide
Northwestern University Global Marketing and Communications' Publications Group maintains an A to Z style guide that addresses many stylistic issues you are likely to encounter in Northwestern University-related communications. Standard University terminology is found here. If you have any questions regarding reference to a specific University entity, confirm information directly with that entity, in the University's printed faculty/staff/student directory, or through the Office of Global Marketing and Comunications' Publications Group.
Follow all applicable copyright laws. See content policy for additional information.