Writing your content

Once you understand your audience and have come up with a website structure that will suit them you'll be ready to start writing content.

People read differently on the web (compared to paper) and so writing for the web is different. The main difference is that people read a lot faster than they do not read word-by-word – they tend to scan over your page focusing on headings, links, and keywords until they find the specific piece of information they want.

The following techniques and suggestions will help you to write a page that will suit this reading style.

Author checklist

In addition to the tips on this page, see the author checklist and the ANU writing style guide.

Also see the slides from the Web Basics WPG presentation (PDF, 828KB).

Inverted pyramid

Inverted pyramid is a style of writing used in many newspapers and other journalistic stories. This style of writing starts with the point (or conclusion) and then builds on that point during the rest of the article, expanding into more detailed information or less strongly related information as the article progresses.

Do not bother with gentle introductions – they will not be read.

This style ensures that people receive the key information when they first start reading and they only need continue if they want more information.It also allows the audience to get a quick idea at the start of the page whether this page is going to contain the information they need they can either move on or they can decide to read more (supporting the skimming style of reading online).

Be brief

Use short succinct phrases to get to your point quickly and do not use lots of long elaborate terms. Anything which slows reading will frustrate the user and send them elsewhere.

Break up your content

Use headings, bullet lists, tables and images (where relevant) to break your content up into chunks that the reader can easily consume at a glance. Avoid 'walls of text'.

This makes your page easy to scan and less intimidating and ensures that you keep things as brief as possible.

Talk to the audience

Phrase information as if you are talking to the person directly – this helps them to engage with what you are saying. Use plain straightforward language to speak to the reader.

Formal or complex language does not make your page appear more official, it just makes it harder to read. For example, 'attendees should be advised that the ceremony will be officiated by the office' is harder to understand than 'our office will coordinate the ceremony for you'.

Use descriptive link text

Make your links from words which indicate what page will open rather than phrases like 'click here'. This is also good for search engine optimisation as words which are linked are more heavily weighted in the algorithms that search engines use to produce their search results.

Updated:  9 August 2013/ Responsible Officer:  Director Marketing/ Page Contact:  Webstyle