CP 2 Write specifically for the web - use clear and simple language, provide 'metadata'

The web is different from print. All Web users demand information and action instantly.

Clear and simple language makes your content easy to read and helps all people gather information faster from your site

'Metadata' is extra information that you can supply about your web content. Metadata will not be shown by default on the screen but can be inspected by users if they choose to and is indexed by search engines to make your content easier to find.

  • Cut out excess words and fluff:
    • 'In order to' becomes 'To', 'For the purposes of' becomes 'For', etc;
    • Aim for about 50% of a printed document.
  • Avoid unfamiliar language:
    • Modify all technical jargon, colloquiums, slang, organisation or department speak into everyday language.
  • Use the active rather than the passive voice:
    • The active voice is less wordy and more direct. See examples;
    • Generally this involves identifying who is doing the action and making them them the subject of the sentence;
    • NB: Almost every book on writing effective English provides a section that explains the importance of avoiding the passive voice. There are also a multitude of websites that can help.
  • Use an informal, inter-personal style of writing if possible:
    • Use 'you' and 'we' wherever possible.
  • Avoid 'big' words just for the sake of it:
    • 'Come into possession of' becomes 'Get', 'Unostentatious' becomes 'Simple', etc.
  • Use short sentences:
    • Try to keep below 21 words.
  • Use short paragraphs:
    • Try to keep below 65 words.
  • Expand acronyms & abbreviations first time used:
    • Expand on every page;
    • Unless the acronym is known to be a well known one for your target audience.
  • Supply a title for each page
    • This will be used for the title that appears in the window bar of the browser;
    • This may be the same as the main heading used for the page.
  • Supply 'metadata' - a description and keywords:
    • As a content provider, it is your responsibility to provide a description of your content, and a list of key words and phrases that relate to it. Your content management system or template should have a space available for these or you may need to pass them along with your content to the person who puts the content up on the web;
    • Description: Describe the key purpose of the page of content - make it specific to the page itself. Imagine this is all you would see in a search engine listing - it should be informative, accurate and enticing;
    • Keywords: These should be a list of key words and phrases that relate to the specific content itself and the general type of content it is. You may want to look at similar pages to get a feel for they keywords. View the source of the web page (usually view -> source) and look for - mEtA name="keywords" - following that should be a list of the key words and phrases used.

Essential: Do not just mirror printed documents or brochures on the website - the content must match the medium. The web is different from print and people interact with it differently.

Use: keep it simple, not: endevour to ensure that simplicity...  Use: Get, not: In order to come into posession of
On buttons use simple language, not teccie jargon like submit  On buttons use simple language, not teccie jargon like submit

Active v Passive voice:

Active:
Tom made a decision.

Passive:
A decision was made by Tom.

Active:
The professor submitted a paper.
Passive:
A paper was submitted by the professor.

Active:
The girls will eat the apples.
Passive:
The apples will be eaten by the girls.

Metadata examples

Description
Hints and tips on how to produce good web-specific content. Part of content accessibility guidance for designers.

Keywords:
accessibility, content, design, web, web pages, advice, guidance, guidelines, web content, web specific, metadata, acronym, abbreviations.