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Writing for the Web

Writing content that is accessible, optimized for search, and otherwise informative and easy to read.

Style Guidelines

The nitty, gritty details

Writing consistently gives a website predicability. Users know where to look for different types of information, and understand what different types of text, links or buttons do without having to think about it. 

While the Top Ten Tips are broad strokes for creating better webpages, employing these style guidelines can ensure we're all writing in a similar style and tone. This section goes over the details like ideal title and paragraph lengths, grammar and punctuation, text formatting, and voice or tone.

In General

Use AP Style. No one will come after you for using an oxford comma though, so use the guidelines as you see fit. For the basics of AP Style and our variations, view the basic rules.

Best Practices

Beware Copying & Pasting from Word

Word leaves behind all sorts of funky code that makes your text look different from the rest of the website. Writing in Word (or any other editor) is a great practice though - just be careful when you paste your finished text.

In both LibGuides and the Libraries website, you will need to remove the formatting:

  1. Select the text you pasted and click the button for Tx.
  2. You may have to go back and add bold and italics styles as well as headings afterwards.
 Before  After
Screenshot showing the wrong font styles and sizes Screenshot showing the correct font styles

Titles and Headings

  • Headings and page titles should be short and descriptive so that they’re easy to scan. Aim for 6 words or less.

  • The page title is always a Heading 1 (H1). Each page should only have one H1.

  • Start your headings with H2. Use H3s and H4s for subsections. Headings should follow a logical order - never follow an H2 with an H4, or start your headings with an H3.

Paragraphs

  • Keep paragraphs around 3-5 sentences long.
  • Use bulleted lists instead of lists of items in a paragraph. Bulleted lists are easier to scan.

Bulleted Lists

  • Capitalize the first word of each bullet.
  • Use periods at the end of each item in a list.
  • Use the built-in bullets from the text editor toolbar, not dashes or other characters.

Links

  • Use concise text that describes where a person will go when they click the link. The best option is usually the name of the destination page.
  • Use links sparingly in paragraphs. Because links are visually distinct from paragraph text, too many make the paragraph hard to read. Consider using a bulleted list of links instead, or evaluate whether the link is necessary and adds additional value or context to your content.

Active Voice

  • Use active voice as much as possible. Active voice is clear and less ambiguous, though there are instances where passive voice is fine to use. Example of switching from passive to active voice:

    • Passive: If there are any questions, I can be reached at the number below.

    • Active : If you have any questions, call me at the number below.

  • Use imperative verbs when writing instructions or directions. These are also clearer and easier to scan since readers will see the verb (action) first. Example:

    • Passive: Books may be returned to the front desk or the book drop.

    • Active: Return books to the front desk or the book drop.

 

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