The official site for the UI Health Care Web Center
Writing for the Web
Web readers read a fraction of a page’s content. Write and format content that lends itself to browsing.
Consider presenting content in chunks—self-contained units of meaning—introduced with a simple paragraph or summary and organized using subheads.
Use short paragraphs.
Use inverted pyramid story structure, placing most important information at the beginning.
Call out essential information like times, dates, addresses, and phone numbers.
Use subhead levels purposefully. Head levels (H1, H2, H3, etc.) assume subordinate relationships.
Avoid brochure-ware, simple conversions of brochures to web pages. Better to recast the content of a brochure into web pages that use guidelines above to better attract users’ attention.
Help web readers find the information they’re seeking.
Provide facts and avoid interpretation and fluff.
Use headlines and subheads that avoid cliché and tell something useful.
Search Engine Optimization
Use concise headlines that state key elements of the content.
Callout key words using subheads and definition lists.
Include a story summary in the meta-text field.
Use lists to attract attention, shorten text, and show relationships.
Introduce lists with a clear, descriptive sentence or phrase.
Keep bullet items short.
Use parallel construction for all bullet items.
Capitalize first word of each bullet.
Use a period when bullet item is a complete sentence.
Grammar and Spelling
Always proofread content.
Poorly written content and frequent errors and inconsistencies erode our organization’s credibility.
Tone and Voice
Second-person voice is encouraged. Address the audience as “you” and “your.”
Limit use of first-person voice. Never use “I” unless it is in a direct quote. Use “we” and “our” only when it is clear to whom it refers, such as a team of providers or a group providing a service or program.
Use active voice.
Problems arise when content sounds overly empathetic, too conversational, or patronizing. Be clear, direct, and respectful.
Use language that’s familiar to the user but avoid jargon or clichés.
Aim for language appropriate for sixth through eighth grade, using the tool provided by Microsoft Word.
Build on existing understandings and models of information.
When several links are referred to in an article, try to present them in a group rather than have them scattered throughout the piece.
When possible, link to content that exists on our own sites (uihc.org, uichildrens.org, uihealthcare.org, medicine.uiowa.edu).
Be sure the text that’s linked has relevant meaning to the destination it is headed. Do not use language like “Click here.”
Limit linking to .pdf documents. PDFs should be used only for forms to be filled out and mailed in; long publications (annual reports, case findings, etc.) with little need to be converted to web pages; and ephemeral pieces (marketing fliers, event giveaways).
Phone numbers should appear as links, allowing automatic dialing when viewed on phones.
Email addresses should appear as the full address and not a link on the person’s name.