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Writing for the web

For most of us, the World Wide Web has been a part of our lives for less than a decade. But it has dramatically changed the way we find information, get access to services and talk to people.

It has also changed the way we read.

Research on web use says that people read from computer screens 25% more slowly than they do from paper. And most users scan the text instead of reading it word-by-word.

So that means we need to write differently for the web than we would for the printed page.

Tips for web writing

1. Write in what journalists call the inverted pyramid style. Present the most important messages first — including your conclusion -- and put the rest of the information below.

2. Web content should be half the size of something written for a print publication. Write everything you want to say — then cut it by 50 per cent!

3. Follow the basic principles of good writing:

  • Keep it simple
  • Be concise
  • Use familiar language — not technical lingo
  • Choose active voice over passive voice (subject-verb-object)

4. Resist the urge to tell your readers everything on one page. Details and background information can be presented though links to new pages, allowing readers to decide how much to take in at a time.

5. Make it easy for a reader to scan your text.

  • Highlight words that are important.
  • Create clear headings for each section.
  • Put information into bulleted lists.
  • Put one main idea in each paragraph.