On Friday, Web Development Librarian Randy Oldham facilitated a lively and interactive workshop on “Writing for the Web” at the University of Guelph. In addition to presenting five tips, Oldham provided well-placed humor and several practice exercises to reinforce those concepts. I appreciated the gentle nudges and urged Oldham to consider a sideline as web whisperer.
Words cost us brain power and time. If we imagine that each word has a cost and that our users are cheap, we will make an effort to get our copy down to the bare basic facts.
Good questions to ask…
- What is the point of this page?
- What content on the page fits with my expectations?
- What doesn’t belong with the title?
- Have I gone into too much detail?
- Are my introductions too long?
Make it Scannable
Oldham informed us that three out of every ten people are color blind. So, when we use—and often overuse color—we are disenfranchising thirty percent of the population.
- Break information into manageable chunks by using bulleted or numbered lists.
- Keep sentences short and avoid long paragraphs.
- Don’t use italics or the underline feature.
- Use boldface sparingly and smoothly.
- Select sans serif (Arial) over serif (Times New Roman) font. Eyes will fatigue when reading serif font. Size: at least 12 point.
- Avoid unnecessary images.
Use Active Voice
The passive voice is jarring to read and makes us sound robotic. On the other hand, the active voice makes sentences shorter and easier to read.
Make web content friendly and easy to read.
When you include tons of links on your page, you detract from your credibility. Aim for no more than five links in a post.