Guidelines on Writing for the Web

So as part of the website redesign and working on making the site WCAG compliant, I wrote a couple sets of guidelines. One of them was on writing content for the web. Some of the points and the example I got from a coworkers, but most of it I just consider sensible advice. Overall, I tried to keep it fairly short and simple in the hopes that staff members will actually read it!

Writing for the Web

Web readers skim pages and look for keywords, links, and other information that will help them find what they’re looking for quickly. Therefore, when writing new or revising content:

1. Be Clear and Concise

  • Make your page title descriptive and concise, keeping it fairly short.
  • Keep sentences, paragraphs, lists, and other information short and simple.
  • Use lists wherever appropriate, especially when users have choices. Use numbered lists for complex instructions and include important screenshots.
  • Unless you’re creating a policy page, keep the entire page short (e.g. 2-3 screens worth).

 Bad Example:
To find information on citation styles, go to the Library’s Home Page, click on Research Help, then click on Citations and Style Guides and choose APA Style Page, MLA Style page or RefWorks.

Better Example:
For more information about citation styles, check the

  •  APA Style Page
  •  MLA Style Page or
  •  RefWorks

2. Speak to Your Audience

  • Avoid acronyms and “library” vocabulary when writing content for the library’s webpages.
  • Write at a Grade 7-8 level in a direct voice, using “you”. For example, use “get” not “obtain”.
  • Because users scan pages and don’t read them, information needs to be written clearly and concisely and at a reading level that doesn’t impede typical user behaviour.

3. Be Meaningful

  • Links, in particular, should be meaningful. The words of a link should tell your reader what the link is about.
  • Screen readers have the option of listing all of the links on a page, so think about whether a user would know what your links refer to out of context.
  • In addition, don’t overuse links. Only use them where it makes sense, such as for a list of resources.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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