Writing for the Web

Points to bear in mind

  • People read differently online.
  • They won't necessarily read from left to right.
  • They will scan pages rather than read every word.
  • They will focus on headings, subheadings, bold text and links.
  • They may not scroll down and therefore could miss text at the bottom of a page.

Writing and editing text

 Tone and copy

  • Keep the tone of your copy authoritative, concise and accessible.
  • Use plain English. Non-native English speakers will also be reading your pages. Avoid using jargon that your audience may not understand.
  • Refer to the University's writing and style guide for standard writing conventions. 
  • If your division makes use of a house style, ensure your pages follow it.
  • Place important content at the top of the page. Additional information can then follow.
  • Include words and phrases, especially within the headings and first few paragraphs, that your target audience would use. This will help your pages to appear in search engine results and reassure the reader that they're looking at the right page.
  • Use short paragraphs. Condense text into bullet points wherever appropriate.
  • Keep your pages short - cut unnecessary text wherever possible, or split long pages into several shorter ones. 
  • Avoid saying 'up to' or 'back to' - visitors may view your pages from a variety of entry points, so may not share your sense of 'up' and 'back'.
  • If you are using an existing print publication to generate pages, the content will need to be reorganised and edited. Web content will typically be about half the length of print content.
  • Check for any copyright issues when using third party content such as images and text, and credit sources where necessary.
  • Obtain any necessary authority if you are writing on behalf of a department or college.
  • All Web pages should be planned, written and proof-read before being published.
  • Date of modification and the job title or department of the page author should be indicated if appropriate.

Headings and links

  • Use headings to summarise paragraphs and sub-sections so the reader can scan the page without needing to read all of the text.   
  • Headings for links in the right-hand menu area of the Oxford University site should be written in sentence case, e.g., 'See also', 'Related links'.
  • Avoid using links within your text. Try to keep them all in one place, such as the right-hand menu area on the University site or as a series of bullet points within your copy.
  • Make use of 'anchor links' if you need to place a large amount of text on a page: create a list of links at the top of a page, which then link to key parts within your copy. This will allow the user to go directly to content they are interested in rather than having to scroll through large areas of text.
  • Label your links descriptively ("see Undergraduate Prospectus", not "for Undergraduate Prospectus click here" or "http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate_courses/index.html").
  • Avoid using the email addresses of individuals - use generic emails where possible.  
  • Check that all links work before publishing.