Web Writing Guidelines

When writing for the web, it is important to first identify your main audience, and what they are looking for. Writing and formatting text for the web is a process, and cannot be duplicated from what might already be written for print documents.

Users scan webpages and only read about 18 percent of what’s on the page, so it’s important to think about what you write, how you write, and how it’s presented. The following tips will help ensure that your readers get the information they are looking for on your website.

Format

  • The inverted pyramid style
    • Begin a page with the shortest and clearest statement you can make about your topic. On average, users only read the first two words on each line.
    • Keep sentence structure simple and active.
  • Chunk Content
    • Write short paragraphs.
    • Separate paragraphs by topics, with informative headings and subheads.
    • Use bulleted or numbered lists to make the information easier to scan. Place the action first and be brief (Ex: Apply for aid)
  • Just the Basics
    • Only include necessary information the user needs to complete their task.
    • Eliminate jargon.
    • Cut out extra words
    • Avoid using organizational language that means nothing to a user.

Style

  • Write directly to the main audience — in second person (you). Be direct and personable.
  • Adopt a casual tone; don’t be overly formal unless context dictates (legal info, policies, etc.). Using conjunctions is okay.
  • Use active voice.  Ex: Agencies cut jobs vs. layoffs announced
  • Watch the use of “parental” language. (You must, etc.)
  • Don’t overemphasize: avoid using all caps and underlines. Use bold and italics sparingly. Underlines will confuse the reader and appear to be hyperlinks. Bold and italicized texts are more difficult to read on the web.

Fresh Content

It is important to keep your content up-to-date in order to maintain the trust of the reader, and to ensure the content accurately reflects your unit.

  • Review and update content on your webpages as necessary.
  • Try to avoid time-sensitive information. If there are events, deadlines, etc. talk with Web & Digital Strategy on how best integrate the information without it being outdated.

Links

Links connect all of our content together and search engines use this text to help determine the subject matter of the linked in doc or page, so how you present the link is very important. Links can be embedded in a paragraph, in a list, or as a button.

  • Use descriptive keywords in the link text that reflect the same topic or keywords the linked in page is trying to target.
  • Link to relevant information. If you mention a specific program, link to it. If you include an email address, make it an email link. If you mention a faculty member, link to their bio page. Don't make people go and search for something that you mention if it already has a page somewhere.
  • Make your links contextual. Avoid "Click here." Use part of the actual referencing sentence as the link. Users prefer links to be 4-8 words in length.
  • Example:
    • Do not use: For commencement information for graduating students click here.
    • Do use: Get commencement information for graduating students.

Visual Content

  • When selecting photos, pick images that communicate the energy and vitality of UNLV and your department. Try to communicate diversity, including ethnicity, gender, age, fields of study, etc., in your photo selections.
  • Be sure to have permission to post a photo before submitting it for placement on your site. If you are not sure about the copyright issues for a specific image, do not use it.
  • UNLV Web and Digital Strategy uses professional photography. Whenever possible, utilize Photo Services to ensure the highest quality images. Photo Services can color-correct, retouch, and size images for web use that meets our specifications.