Writing for the Web

OU Campus Training and Support

Website visitors read Web content differently than printed pieces. To improve your sites readability and usability, follow these guidelines:

  • Summarize first. Put the main points of your document in the first paragraph so readers scanning your pages will not miss your point.
  • Be concise. Use lists rather than paragraphs, but only when your prose lends itself to such treatment. Readers can pick out information more easily from a list than from within a paragraph.
  • Keep it short.Most Web readers scan pages for relevant materials rather than reading word by word through a document. Guide the reader by using headings, subheadings, bulleted lists and periodic bold text.
  • Keep important content near the top. Readers may not scroll down and therefore could miss text at the bottom of a page.

Tone and Copy

  • Avoid copying straight from previously written Word documents.
  • All Web pages should be planned, written and proof-read before publishing to the web.
  • Keep the tone of your copy authoritative, concise and accessible.
  • Use short paragraphs. Condense text into bullet points wherever appropriate.
  • Keep your pages short. Use half the word count of traditional writing. Cut unnecessary text wherever possible, or split long pages into several shorter ones.
  • Use plain English. Avoid using jargon that your audience may not understand.
  • Place important content at the top of the page. Additional information can then follow.


  • Occasional use of bold, italic are welcome, but overuseis highly unrecommended.
  • It is best to avoid underlines, users confuse underlined text with hyperlinks.

The UT Tyler template takes care of the formatting automatically. The writer can bold or italicize words without resorting to actual coding. Just because a website makes it easier to do something, however, doesn't necessarily mean you should take advantage of the privilege. The best way to judge the need for special formatting is to read the sentence aloud and see how you would say it in public. Do you need to emphasize a word? Would that be redundant or simply annoying?