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Writing Best Practices

When writing content, always follow these web writing best practices:

Inverted pyramid

Setting up your content using the inverted pyramid is a great way to focus your page. Avoid the essay style of writing; you want to start a page with the most useful information, focus on key messages and avoid introductory paragraphs.

Inverted pyramid diagram showing writing structure

Start with headings

When starting your first draft, write down the main topics that you'll be covering on the page. They will become your headings later on and allow you to organize your page before you start writing. Choose clear topic names so that users scanning your website or using an assistive device will understand exactly what information they can expect to find under each heading.

Need to know

Start with what the user needs to know at the very top of a page. What is the main thing they would be coming to your page for and what information do they need to complete their goal? This information should go directly to the top of the page, e.g., for an event page, start with what the event is, where it is, and when it is. If you're not sure what the user needs, thinking about answering these five questions: who, what, where, when, why and how.

Tip: imagine that you're speaking to someone who's asking you for help. What would say right away to answer their questions and help them complete their goals?

Want to know

After you've provided everything that the visitor needs to know, you can include other important details (e.g., rules, regulations, policies and next steps).

Don't lead with rules and regulations as a visitor is likely to skip over them as they try to find need to know information. If you start with the most useful, need-to-know information, a visitor is more likely to relax and keep reading the rest of the content on the page.

Might like to know

End a page with general and background information. You can stop after you've written your important details but if you'd like to include background and more historical information (e.g., funding, sponsorships, improvements, etc.), it should be at the bottom of a page. A visitor that's interested in that information will find and read it.

Use your sitemap

Check the sitemap while you're writing. You might have information that's “might like to know” on one page but is more “want” or “need” to know on another page. You can briefly mention it on a page and hyperlink over to the page where it's a better fit. You shouldn't repeat information across different pages of your website.

Tone and language

Write in a conversational, friendly tone and in the active voice. Include your organization's full name when first mentioned but after that, you should write in the first-person, e.g., Contact us to find out how you can get involved.

Also, be sure to introduce acronyms and abbreviations on each page where they're used.

Be objective

Remember that you're writing to be helpful and provide information. You should avoid any words or sentences that are unclear. Use specific terms that communicate meaning to the visitor.

Be careful with using too many adjectives and adverbs. Often they let a reader know how you feel about a topic instead of providing helpful information. If a program is “truly engaging” or an “amazing opportunity,” you should write more and explain why. Adjectives should not stand in for meaningful content.