Writing in a readable style
A web writer’s role is not just to write, but to communicate. To do this successfully online, content must be clear, direct and concise.
10 tips for web writers
- Write in an approachable style
Avoid writing in a tone that is too formal. Don’t use bureaucratese, legalese, marketese, academic style or gobbledygook.
- Use everyday words
Use words familiar to users of the content. Be careful using jargon or specialist language. Avoid idioms.
- Be careful using abbreviations
Try to limit abbreviations, acronyms or initialisms to those familiar to users of the content.
- Write short sentences
Aim for an average sentence length of 15-20 words. Avoid sentences longer than 30-35 words.
- Prefer the active voice
Only use the passive voice when appropriate (for example, when the actor is irrelevant or unknown, or to emphasise the object of the action).
- Don’t turn verbs into nouns
Check verb phrases. Look for nouns ending in –ion, -ment, -ing, -ant, -ance, -ness and –dom. Where appropriate, rewrite to use them as verbs.
- Use verbs in the present tense
Where possible, rewrite future-tense verbs to use the present tense.
- Use personal pronouns
Refer to the owner of the content with ‘we’ and ‘our’ and to users with ‘you’ and ‘your’.
- Write concisely
Watch out for paired words, wordy phrases and other unnecessary words.
- Review and edit
Never publish a first draft. Let some time pass before editing. Review from a printed version. Read the draft aloud. Where possible, get another writer to do a further review.