Writing for the Web

Remember

  1. The web is where people go to engage, go places, and get things done. There is an activeness about it that is very different from when someone turns a TV on or opens a newspaper.
  2. Our main audience for the content you are creating is prospective students and their parents.
  3. We want visitors to your site to get a real feel for the department’s personality: what they might learn or think about if they studied with you, who they might meet, how other students have been impacted or what they have gone on to do.
  4. It is important to add a new news/feature/blog item at least 2-3 times per month for the sake of freshness and engagement. Figure out how to schedule it into your work so that it happens.

Tips for writing for the web

  1. Know that viewers are scanning your page, not reading it. Viewers are seeking content that they can take action on. So make it scannable:
    • highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; bolding them also works)
    • meaningful sub-headings (not “clever” ones)
    • bulleted lists
    • one idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
    • start with the conclusion (inverted pyramid)
    • half the word count (or less) than conventional writing. This is even more important for teenagers than for adult viewers. Be concise! Fragments are ok. Well-crafted, complete sentences aren’t as essential (Sorry English Dept.!). Spelling still matters though.
  2. In addition to plenty of links that direct people to other pages on Goshen.edu, feel free to include links to sites outside of Goshen.edu (like if you just read an incredible article about new research in your area of expertise and you are responding to it). This increases credibility.
  3. Most people are savvy enough – especially teenagers – to know when what they are reading isn’t authentic. People are looking for honesty, integrity, authenticity today more than ever. So, don’t write in a promotional style with lots of unqualified claims. Use objective/neutral language.

Headlines

  1. The first 3 words are the most important. Most viewers never see the last words in a link unless the first few words attract their attention.
  2. Include “keywords” (words that someone might be entering into a search engine to find the kind of info you are offering).
  3. The headline should give a clear sense of what the viewer will find if they choose to click to read more. Don’t try to make it a mystery, be vague or too clever.

Ideas for new, fresh content

  • Similar items that you would include in a department newsletter, but instead of having to wait for months to compile, edit, print such a piece, you can post these things immediately with more photos, links and ways to engage.
  • Photos from a department event or special class activity. You will nearly always want/need a photo to accompany your content, so remember your camera (or check out from ITSMedia)
  • Short intro of a new faculty member.
  • Showcase a student’s exemplary project.
  • Short reflections by students, like if they are already doing journals for a class.
  • Profiles or updates on the success of alums or an interesting job they are in.
  • Publicity for upcoming events (lectures, conferences, etc.)