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Writing for the web

Writing informatively and clearly for the website

How is it different?

When people read online they often;

  • Scan rather than read
  • Prefer informal text
  • Want informative content
  • Lose interest quickly
  • Hate jargon
  • Respect good sources
  • Look for supporting evidence
  • Are wary of old or out of date content
  • Prefer explanations early on what they will gain or learn from reading on.

Tone

This is based on UoN policy and the Strategic Plan.

Super Supportive

When writing, think helpful, friendly and conversational; on your side and inclusive; encouraging and caring. Use welcoming language and talk in the first person; ‘we’ not ‘the library’ or ‘the University’. Use positive language, promoting services that are popular with students. Focus on the benefits, such as how convenient it is to be able to manage library accounts at home. Frame instructions as requests rather than giving orders. Do not use jargon where it can be avoided. Be specific about what the library and the staff can offer students. Of course, we want students to know that staff are available to help them but also to feel confident to use tools to answer their own questions.

Future Focussed

Keep text to a minimum, do not over explain or give extraneous details. Try not to refer to related topics unless necessary, the tags in the right-hand side bar should suggest related links when using LibGuides or AskUs. Any links in the text should be hyperlinks that take the student to the correct location in as few clicks as possible.

Positive Impact

When writing, think of using language that is encouraging and motivating. Use positive language such as; yes, can, will, definitely, absolutely, certainly. Avoid negative words such as; no, won’t, shouldn’t, can’t, don’t. Avoid ambiguous language such as; maybe, might, could, perhaps. Don’t offer any excuses about library facilities and software, be realistic about what is available and offer solutions to any issues.

Look and feel

There are pre-set options in SpringShare that will ensure that all the pages and guides will look the same. These have been tested for accessibility and it is recommended that you only deviate from this if you have a clear reason and that your new options will be just as accessible. Please discuss this with your line manager before making any changes.

Content

Any text should be written with this list of priorities in mind for two reasons. First, readers can leave the copy at any point and understand it, even if they don’t have all the details. Second, the most important details are effectively prioritised;

  • The most interesting aspect, which the reader must have in order for communication to be successful;
  • Additional information that is helpful but not crucial;
  • Extra detail.

Large amounts of text can also be difficult for some users, so think about how your content can be spaced or broken down to make it easier to read.

Tables and graphs

There is a place for these if they are fully accessible. Alternative text can be attached in the original programme, like Excel, or on the page. Alternative text space can have a low character count so think about how it can be explained in the body of the text. LinkedIn Learning has an informative 30 minute video called ‘Creating accessible documents in Microsoft Office’that explains alternative text in Excel and PowerPoint.

Names, titles and punctuation

When referring to internal staff, refer to the role and not the person. Use generic ways of contacting the position such as; ‘If you need to report a broken light fitting, then email lls_environment@northampton.ac.uk'

Bullet points can be a great way of getting lots of information across in a less overwhelming way. Numbering them can be a useful way to arrange dependent tasks so the user can work through logically and backtrack if necessary. Use standard square bullet points and left align copy. Only the last bullet point uses a full stop. A semi-colon can be used if each bullet point is a complete sentence in its own right.

Do not use bold, underline or use italics in any document or page. This is much harder to read and underlined words can be mistaken for a hyperlink.