Writing Content for Web Readers

Follow these guidelines if you want your Web pages to:

  • be easier for your human readers to understand and use
  • show up better in search results.

Choose content that helps your readers do tasks that matter to them.

Your history, mission, or organizational structure are unlikely to help your readers do what they want to do. Don't make them read through that to get to the information they want. 

Use standard English.

"Standard" doesn't have to mean "formal."  It does mean:

Write to an eighth-grade reading level.

Make your motto: "Write to express, not to impress."  

  • Use simple, common words. Only use jargon, big or less-familiar words when you really need them.
  • Use concrete, specific words.
  • Avoid using different words to mean the same thing. If you mention a "shovel" in one place on your site, don't call it a "tool for delving" somewhere else.  
  • Use simple sentence structures and make most sentences short.
  • Use the active voice.
  • Be concise. 

Put key information words at the start of:

  • headings
  • opening sentences of pages and paragraphs
  • lists
  • links.

Phrase links with words that describe where the link goes.

Avoid "click here," "follow this link" and similar phrasing. Instead, phrase links so that they make sense to a person reading a printed version of the page. For example:

IT Service Desk

888-Help-009 (888-435-7009)

IT Service Desk Quick Start Guide (PDF 766kB)

Note: You will need Adobe Reader to read PDF documents. If it is not installed on your computer, download it for free from Adobe.