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How to write for the web

About writing for the web

Writing for the web is very different than writing for print. Most users don’t read online; they scan and are usually multi-tasking.

How we read web pages

Most people scan pages looking for words that catch their eye, so web content should be short, scannable, and to the point. The order is usually:

  1. Scan (maximum 10 seconds) to find areas of interest.
  2. Scan headings to zero in on subjects.
  3. Skim copy for keywords and phrases.
  4. Read to get detail.
  5. Click to interact.

Make your text easier to scan

Breaking up large blocks of text and using plenty of headings makes it easier for your users to scan. Sometimes the headings are all they’ll read.

Write in the active voice (we will customize the experiment for your class) rather than the passive (the experiment will be customized for your class).

Learn how to choose the best content for your website and how to format it.

Content as conversation

Every use of your site is a conversation started by your visitor. They have come to your site for information.

Site visitors are very focused on what they came for. They're likely to ignore mission statements and probably don’t care about your history. Just tell them what they need to know and stop.

Put the focus on the reader, not you. Be informal and conversational – use “you” and “your” rather than “we” and “us.”

Read it out loud. Does it sound natural, or like you’re reading from the calendar? If you have to take a breath in the middle of a sentence or paragraph, it's too long!

Calls to action

What do you want visitors to do after they’ve read the information? Sometimes you need to tell them! Add some calls to action like “contact us for more information” or “apply.” Giving your visitor something to respond to keeps the conversation going.

Contact webcoor@uvic.ca if you need help with your content, or training in writing for the web. (That was a call to action.)

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