Writing for the Web
Voice and Tone
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.”
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.
Organizing Your Content
“Chunk” your content. On the web, users tend to scan content, rather than read word for word. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for by using headers, bullets and lists to break up your content.
Use headers effectively. In Drupal, you have two main header options: header 2 and header 3, also known as the h2 and h3 tags. Generally, the h2 tag will be the primary one that you use. If you are already using the h2 tag and have a need to further break up content within that section, use the h3 tag (it is styled to have a different appearance than h2).
Do not use any header tags simply to add emphasis to a particular sentence or statement within your content.
No “coming soon” or “under construction” messages. People are coming to your site for up-to-date, relevant content. If users can’t find what they need, they not only will be frustrated, but you may lose them completely.
If you need to post a message but don’t have the full details, let users know when they will be available:
No: Check back soon for the fall 2013 course schedule.
Yes: The fall 2013 course schedule will be posted on April 1.
Links and Navigation
Match navigation links to page titles. If a page is titled “Applying,” its navigation link should be named the same. Avoid overly clever names for navigation links and page titles; they can be confusing for the user.
No: Join the Class of 2017
Link phrases rather than single words. Links should give users a clear idea of what they can expect to find on the page to which you are directing them.
Avoid web clichés and navigational instructions. There’s no need to tell users how to move around your site, or how to get from one page to the next. If your content is clear, users will know how to get to where they want to go.
No: To learn more about women’s basketball at Bentley, visit the Bentley Athletics website and click on the women’s sports tab.
Yes: Learn more about women’s basketball at Bentley.
No: Click here to register for Open House.
Yes: Register for Open House.
Don’t link to the same page repeatedly. You don’t want your links to get lost on your reader. For example, if your content mentions the Office of Financial Assistance four times, there is no need to link to all four references — just the first one is fine.
Formatting Your Content
Don’t copy and paste directly from Word. Microsoft Word sometimes inserts unnecessary extra code that affects the formatting of your webpage. To avoid this, paste your copy into a text editor like Notepad before pasting it into Drupal.
Do not underline copy. Underlined copy looks like a link, which can confuse and frustrate your users.
Do not overuse bold and italics. Use these too much and you’ll achieve the opposite effect of what you had intended — if everything is emphasized, nothing stands out.