How to Write User-Friendly Content
It’s important to target your audience when writing for the web. By knowing who you are writing for, you can write at a level that will be meaningful for them. Use the personas you created while designing the site to help you visualize who you are writing for.
Use the words your users use. By using keywords that your users use, you will help them understand the copy and will help optimize it for search engines.
Chunk your content. Chunking makes your content more scannable by breaking it into manageable sections.
Front-load the important information. Use the journalism model of the “inverted pyramid.” Start with the content that is most important to your audience, and then provide additional details.
Use pronouns. The user is “you.” The organization or government agency is “we.” This creates cleaner sentence structure and more approachable content.
Use active voice. “The board proposed the legislation” not “The regulation was proposed by the board.”
Use short sentences and paragraphs. The ideal standard is no more than 20 words per sentence, five sentences per paragraph. Use dashes instead of semi-colons or, better yet, break the sentence into two. It is ok to start a sentence with “and,” “but,” or “or” if it makes things clear and brief.
Use bullets and numbered lists. Don’t limit yourself to using this for long lists—one sentence and two bullets is easier to read than three sentences.
Use clear headlines and subheads. Questions, especially those with pronouns, are particularly effective.
Use images, diagrams, or multimedia to visually represent ideas in the content. Videos and images should reinforce the text on your page.
Use white space. Using white space allows you to reduce noise by visually separate information.
It’s also important to create an editorial calendar. You can encourage visitors to return to your site by keeping your content fresh and up-to-date, especially when working with blogs, social media, or dynamic content websites.
Remember that developing web copy in plain language in the federal government is the law. Learn more about the government’s plain language standard and find a checklist to help you in your projects.