Writing for the Web
What’s the difference between writing for web and print?
In print, reading is generally a linear process. You start on page 1, continue on page 2, and so on. There’s a set start and end point, defined by the content creator.
On the web, users are in control. They don’t just read, but interact with your content in any number of different ways. They search, scan, follow links to new pages, watch videos, upload photos, and share content through social media. And they can start doing so anywhere within your website that they choose.
A consistent voice and tone allows our audience to have a seamless experience as they interact with us across our many platforms, from web to email to print. Doing this successfully builds trust with our audience, engages them in conversation with us, and helps establish us as an authority in our field.
When writing for web and email, consider the points below.
Be bold. We’re a school that’s on the move. That means we can’t communicate our messages the same way we have always done before. Take risks and use provocative, confident statements that grab attention. See the list of examples below for ideas.
Keep it clear and concise. Eliminate all unnecessary words and phrases. Keep sentences short when possible.
Make it friendly and personal. “You” is a powerful word. Use it to speak directly to your readers and create a conversational, less formal tone. When referring to Bentley, try words like “we” or “our.”
Be approachable. Our content isn’t designed to be a one-way street — we want people to engage in conversation with us. Don’t adopt a haughty or distant tone that will turn people off from connecting with us further.
Get to the point. Don’t bury important information far down the page. State your main point as quickly as possible. Use an inverted pyramid structure that puts the conclusion of your story in the first paragraph, followed by additional information and details.
Avoid passive language. Your writing will be clearer and livelier if you use strong action words.
No: The bill was approved by the Senate.
Yes: The Senate approved the bill.
Eliminate jargon. Take a look at your content to make sure it is clear to all audiences, including those who are not familiar with your topic. This also applies to Bentley-specific references; even if a term is used widely on campus, not everyone (such as a new student) might know it. Avoid using only acronyms; instead, include the full name on first reference, with the acronym acceptable in all subsequent references.
Be clear. Clarity is crucial. If you are explaining a procedure or process, make sure that all steps and requirements are clearly and simply defined. Think about questions you are commonly asked — if the answers aren’t in your content already, include them.
Examples of Voice and Tone
No: “With a degree from Bentley, you will be prepared to succeed in any path you choose.”
Yes: “A four-year education at Bentley prepares you to step out into the world on your own terms.”
No: “Ninety-nine percent of our students report finding a job or enrolling in graduate school within six months of graduation.”
Yes: “We have a 99 percent graduate placement rate. Even before you’re out, you’re in demand.”
No: “Through our corporate partnerships, you’ll get real-world experience working with top companies like Apple.”
Yes: “Some students learn working on an Apple. Our students learn working inside Apple.”
No: “Our hands-on learning opportunities give you practical experience that will help you in your future career.”
Yes: “The world doesn’t sit still for the four years you’re in college. You need an education that keeps up.”
There are many common, and Bentley-specific, editorial standards that should be met in all web and print publications. They are summarized, with examples, within the Quick Guide to Bentley Style.