Web Writing: Basic Guidelines and Standards

Those closest to the content should be the ones contributing to it; however, writing content for the Web can be a challenge for anyone, and a particular challenge to those tasked with content contribution who are accustomed to writing for print in an academic environment.

Here are a few tips that can help.


Know Your Audience

Who does your current website serve? Students, potential students, donors, faculty, staff, or all of the above?

If your site is geared toward several audiences, then determine which group is primary, which group is secondary and so on. Once you have your audiences identified, concentrate on your primary audience. Begin to develop or edit your content targeting it toward your most sought after users.

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The workshop fee and dates and times are all listed below. You should contact Betsy if you want to know if there have been any changes made. ** NO REFUNDS WILL BE GIVEN!!!! ** Workshops will be held at TMCC in the Red Mountain Building in Room 404 at TMCC beginning from 8 to 1. You may reschedule two times. Complete the application by going here. Or come by the office sometime or call Betsy. The phone number is 673-7700 and the Cost is $50. Pay toBoard of Regents at the cashier with a check or money order. Dates are January 5 and November 9.   TMCC Staff can get in free with id. Classes are limited so register and apply NOW! Registration closes on March 9 and NO LATE APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED!

What you need to know before you apply: You will need to have the following with you when you register: your student id and number, your receipt from the cashier and your completed and SIGNED application forms.

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Workshop Information

Classes are limited and registration closes on March 9, so register now! No late applications will be accepted.

Requirements

You will need to have the following items with you to complete the registration process:

  • ID: your current student ID
  • Proof of Payment: your receipt from the TMCC Cashier's Office
  • Application: your completed and signed application form

After registering, if you are unable to attend, you may reschedule up to two times.

Dates and Locations

Workshops will be held on Jun. 5 and Nov. 9 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at TMCC in the Red Mountain Building in Room 404.

Cost

The cost for this workshop is $50. No refunds will be given. Note that workshop fees are waived for TMCC staff with proper ID. Please submit payment to Accounting Services/Cashier's Office in the form of a check or money order made payable to the Board of Regents.

Please contact us for any questions you may have.

Review And Organize Your Content

Take a close look at your current content. What parts of that content are most important to your primary users? Again, prioritize your content into "most important", "important", and "least important" Keep the most important material as your building blocks for other content to follow. Group content into sections to organize thoughts and topics.

As content contributors, we are obligated to provide our users with the material they seek in a direct and concise manner.

Don't assume your readers have knowledge of the subject or have read related pages on your site. Clearly explain things so each page can stand on its own.

Less Is More

Be concise. Some of us have trouble throwing things away. The compulsion to hang onto words is one of the most difficult but necessary habits to overcome when preparing web content. Web sites are not filing cabinets.

Keep in mind that most of your audience will prefer to scan your pages for needed information. By using smart headers, bulleted lists, links, graphics and text segments that know when to start and more importantly when to stop, you can give your audience the visual clues it needs to keep them on your page and consume the important information they desire.

Keep It Simple

  • Keep language simple and avoid jargon and acronyms – your reader may be unaware of technical or in-house terms.
  • Write as if you are talking to the reader; it presents a more friendly face to your website.
  • Write in short sentences (guideline : max 20-25 words).
  • Break up long paragraphs (guideline: three to five sentences).
  • Use the active voice e.g. “Students love TMCC” rather than “TMCC is loved by students”. Tell your visitors what to do. Keep the flow of your pages going.
  • Avoid content that is built around internal org charts or clogged with mission statements designed for internal use.
  • Reduce bloated introductory text e.g. “Welcome to our new web page...”
  • You could remove it altogether but, used well, the introductory text should help people better understand the rest of the page and answer two main questions:
    • What will the visitor find on this page, i.e., what is the purpose of the page
    • Why should visitors view your page – what’s in it for them

Use Links Effectively

  • Make links meaningful. It is helpful to the reader if the link tells them what they are linking to. Web usability experts discourage the use of the phrase "click here" for links. Don’t use them! Instead use an ​accurate description of the linked content ​worked into a sentence.

    So, rather than saying "click here for the College handbook", you would say "download the College handbook". This is especially important for people with visual impairments who use screen readers.

    Example:
    Wrong: "To find out more about the Print Policy at TMCC, click here."
    Right: "For more information, view the Print Policy at TMCC.”

  • Avoid quoting the URL in full. There is no point, and some URLs are extremely long. The user merely wants to click on the link and be taken to the page.

    Example:
    Wrong: "Visit the Admissions and Records website at http://www.tmcc.edu/admissions"
    Right: "Visit Admissions and Records"

  • Avoid multiple links to the same reference on one page. The first use of a hyperlinked term on a page alerts readers to find out more by clicking on that term. When there are multiple instances of the same term, only hyperlink the first appearance, not each and every appearance; this helps to avoid visual "clutter".
  • Link to your department's "Contact Us" Web page when you want to say "contact our department" or "contact us"; and do not link to an individual's email address.
    You may also link to your department's faculty/staff page (where all of the contact information for each individual is located). This way, as personnel changes occur, the website links stay current and viable.

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COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS: Writing for the Web section has a lot more information. To find out more, click here.

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See Also: Writing for the Web's Frequently Asked Questions section for more information.

Use Headers and Subheaders (Headlines)

Headlines have the ability to either hook or deter the reader. Ideally they should define the page content as fully as possible with as few words as possible. Because people tend to scan-read screens, splitting your page using meaningful headings, makes it easier for them to find information.

Headings provide several functions: they provide a logical structure to the page. This also helps people using screen readers to build up an image of what the layout of the page looks like.

Search engines take note of headings, so it is important that they include, where possible, important key words or phrases. This helps with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Using information-loaded words in your headings helps users that are scanning down your page.

Remember to use proper casing for your headers/subheaders.

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Web writing standards

Writing content for the web can be a challenge for anyone, and a particular challenge to those tasked with content contribution who are accustomed to writing for print in an academic environment. Students who want more information about how to write content for the TMCC website should go here http://www.tmcc.edu.

** LEP Guidance for students ** LEP Guidance sets forth the compliance standards that recipients of Federal financial assistance must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin.   The Coordination and Review Section is responsible for governmentwide coordination.

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Web Writing Standards

Writing content for the web can be a challenge for anyone, and a particular challenge to those tasked with content contribution who are accustomed to writing for print in an academic environment.

To find more information about how to write content for the TMCC website please visit our website. Please note that we are in the process of developing a handbook for students that will be available on March 1, 2014.

LEP Guidance

Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Guidance sets forth the compliance standards that recipients of federal financial assistance must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin.

The Coordination and Review Section

The Coordination and Review Section is responsible for government-wide coordination. This section serves as the federal repository for the internal implementation plans that each federal agency is required to develop, to ensure meaningful access to its own federally conducted programs and activities.

Use Bulleted Lists Smartly

They are your friend. Web visitors love them and so should you. Web visitors don’t read, they scan, and lists help them scan efficiently. Don’t over do it though and make an entire page based on an outline format.

Avoid "extreme bulleting" -- nesting bullets beyond one or two levels can lose your audience. For legal documents it may be required; however, for web content it is just annoying!

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Welcome to the TMCC applied anthropology program. Our goals are to provide quality, affordable, and accessible educational experiences in anthropology; serve the needs of residents and employers within the community; promote an appreciation of the value inherent in culturally diverse environments; and provide a para-professional labor force for the changing field of anthropology worldwide.

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 Welcome to the TMCC Applied Anthropology program. Our goals include:

  • Providing quality, affordable, and accessible educational experiences in anthropology.
  • Serving the needs of residents and employers within the community.
  • Promoting an appreciation of the value inherent in culturally diverse environments.
  • Providing a para-professional labor force for the changing field of anthropology worldwide.

Use An Active Voice

By using the subject-verb-object format—putting the subject at the start of the sentence whenever possible.

Example:
Wrong: An umbrella was bought by Tom.
Right: Tom bought an umbrella.

Say What You Need To Say Once And Say It Well

Eliminate redundancies. If you struggle to explain your point and resort to terms like “in other words” or “in short,” you aren’t saying it right. Regroup your thoughts and try again.

Stay On Message And Get To The Point Quickly

No one loves tangents more than writers, it’s true, but Web writers must exclude indulging in interesting but unnecessary information. Resist, resist, resist. You have about one second to grab the visitors’ attention.

Use "Inverted Pyramid" Construction On Top Level Pages

Load the most important information at the top of the page and at the top level of the website. Often this is a few sentences or bullet points. The goal is to capture the interest of site visitors.​ Save the more specialized and lengthy pages for deeper levels of the site.

PDF vs. HTML

Web sites often provide information in PDF when it is inappropriate. Good, standards-compliant HTML is almost always better for use on the Web in most cases.

Your audience is limited with PDF because it doesn't work well on all platforms - e.g. handheld browsers. It requires extra software and takes more memory and CPU power. 

Criteria for making PDF content:

  • If the content is a self-contained manual or handbook, has an abundance of printed pages, ​intended to be read as a whole, you might consider posting the document as a PDF to download. Note however that the TMCC Policy Manual, for example, has been converted to HTML pages effectively.
  • If the original document ​contains complex graphics, screen shots or layouts it is likely better to post it as a PDF to download.
  • At this time, it is recommended that all committee agendas and minutes are posted as PDF documents.
  • However, if the content is ​short and non-graphical, or could be broken into sections (e.g., policies and procedures) it is best to make it an HTML page.
  • If a form can be submitted electronically it is always better to make it an HTML form vs. a PDF form. Contact Web Services to create all HTML forms for the website.

If you are considering posting content as PDF files that don't meet the criteria above, please contact Web Services first to see if an HTML alternative may be the better course of action.

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