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Writing for the Web

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

Voice

Voice and Tone

When we write and we speak, we want others to feel like they’ve been heard. Like what they say matters, and that we’ve taken them seriously. When others speak, we furrow our brow and listen. We want anyone to feel comfortable bringing their problems to us, and confident that we’d never pass judgment — because we wouldn’t. We choose our words deliberately and would never be caught shouting … unless it was to let someone know they dropped their wallet.

  • Keep it simple
    We prefer a short sentence over a long, stuffy one. Same with words.
  • Front-load the meaning
    To be ultra clear, we begin paragraphs with the most important thing. For example, rather than email someone a long story that ends with a request, we’ll start with the request — “Do you have 30 minutes to help?” — and work back.
  • Write like you talk
    If you wouldn’t say it in casual conversation to a friend, find simpler wording.
  • Avoid adverbs
    These are words that modify other words, like “very,” “super,” “basically,” etc. There’s probably a stronger word, such as "sprint" instead of "run quickly." Some adverbs tend towards exaggeration or bias which we want to avoid.
  • Leave room for doubt
    We like to say “often” or “sometimes” because absolutes like “always” or “never” are rarely true.
  • Eliminate jargon
    Avoid using industry-specific words that others won’t easily understand.
  • Reframe negative statements to be positive
    For example, turn “no shipping fee” into “free shipping.” It’s shorter, more accurate, and more upbeat.
  • When in doubt, delete “that”
    “That” tends to get overused. If you can delete it and a sentence reads the same, please do.
  • Double-check all pronouns
    If it’s not clear what your “it” or “that” is referring to, bring the noun up again.
  • Check adjectives
    Are they all necessary? Would a more specific noun choice be better? Is it a big house or a mansion? A brimmed hat or a fedora?