Dos and Don'ts When Creating Your Content

COPY

✓ DO: Use short paragraphs and sentences

Follow the 1-2-3-4-5 Rule.

  • 1 main thought, expressed in
  • 2 to 3 short sentences, taking up no more than
  • 4 to 5 lines on the page

What happens at six lines? Your paragraph becomes more than an inch long. And an inch of type is too thick for most readers. Especially when you’re writing for mobile.

✓ DO

Find out how to:
• Post your resume
• Search our jobs database
• Sign up for Career Fairs

✗ DO NOT

Read about how we can help you prepare for the rigors of the job search, with tips for posting your resume on our website, searching our extensive database of job offerings, and registering for upcoming fall semester Career Fairs.


✓ DO: Use Bulleted Lists and Text Formatting

Users fixate longer on bulleted lists and text formatting (such as bolding and italics). These text-styling tools can garner attention because of their distinctive appearance as well as help speed up reading by way of breaking down information into discrete parts and highlighting important keywords and phrases.

  • If you have three or more items broken up by commas, consider using a bulleted list instead.
  • Highlight important information in bold and italics, but don't overuse it because then it becomes meaningless.

✓ DO: Get to the point as quickly as possible

Start with the conclusion, follow with the details. Use the inverted pyramid to place important information at the top of your articles.

✓ DO

Apply here [with a link to application]

✗ DO NOT

By completing the online application available on this site you can enroll in the program.


✓ DO: Cut out unnecessary words and information

Cutting half the words on a webpage can increase usability by up to 58 percent. So, don't use four words when one or two are enough.

Short paragraphs, short sentences, and easy words are the most readable. Digital content is not what you learned to write in English class. So don't try to win any writing awards.

✓ DO USE

because
since
why

✗ DO NOT USE

the reason for
for the reason that
due to the fact that
owing to the fact that
in light of the fact that
considering the fact that
on the grounds that
this is why
in terms of
with regard to


✓ DO: Be accurate. Be clear. Be concise.

More than half of your users will spend less than three minutes on your site. Make them count.

They won't read your content thoroughly or in its entirety. They will skim your site to find the information they want. They search for headlines, keywords, skip around, and have low attention spans.

So, avoid inaccuracy, vagueness, ambiguity, triteness, euphemisms, jargon, and wordiness.

More on Usage in the Editorial Style Guide

✓ DO USE

Get
Before
Buy
Ask For
Next
End
Use
Know
Help

✗ DO NOT USE

Obtain
Prior To
Purchase
Request
Subsequent
Terminate
Utilize
Cognizant
Facilitate


LANGUAGE

✗ DO NOT: Use jargon, clichés, or marketing “fluff” on the web

Use words that your target audiences use when searching. They don't care about your org chart or your official name or what your department calls things, so you shouldn't either.

✓ DO

Call it “financial aid” if that is what your users call it.

Oregon researchers study how patients with a minor heart condition are affected by high altitude.

✗ DO NOT

Use “financial assistance” just because that is what your department calls it.

Oregon researchers study the effects of patent foramen ovale in a high-altitude Bolivian setting.

When your readers scan your content, every word is valuable. Do not fill your pages with marketing “fluff” or needless formalities. Boastful, exaggerated language reduces the likelihood that your content will be read or believed.

More on Clichés and Jargon in the Editorial Style Guide


✗ DO NOT: Use acronyms

Unless your website is only for an internal audience, don't ever assume that your users know the nicknames or acronyms you use.

✓ DO

Contact the Teaching and Learning Center.

✗ DO NOT

Contact TLC.


TONE

✓ DO: Use pronouns

The user is “you.” The department is “we.” This creates more approachable content and makes the users feel like they are part of your organization.

✓ DO

Get advice you need to write effective web copy that gets your program noticed.

✗ DO NOT

Users should review our suggestions on writing for the web to optimize their organization’s outreach efforts.


✓ DO: Use active voice

✓ DO

If it snows, call the parking hotline before coming to campus.

The council proposed new regulations.

✗ DO NOT

In the event that it snows, the parking hotline should be called prior to coming to campus.

New regulations were proposed.


✓ DO: Show people what they can do

Don't just tell someone your product, show and tell them what they can do with that product. Instead of writing about us and what we offer, focus on what people can do at the UO and after graduation. It's not enough to tell people you offer a degree in education, show them what they will be able to do with that degree once they graduate.


HEADERS

✓ DO: Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles

“A wall of text is deadly for an interactive experience. Intimidating. Boring. Painful to read. Write for online, not print.” — Jakob Nielsen

Headers Outline Your Content

Think of headers as the outline of your page. They should be arranged to show the hierarchical ordering of information from the most broad and important (Heading 2) to secondary information that supports the information in your Heading 2 (Heading 3) to the most specific information that supports the information in your Heading 3 (Heading 4).

Like an outline, you should always start with most important — Header 2 — with your Header 3 information below that and your Header 4 information below your Header 3 information. Do not skip levels — don't start with a Header 3, or go straight from a Header 2 to a Header 4. You can go from a Header 3 or a Header 4 back to a Header 2 when you switch broad topics.

Which one would you actually read?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo.

or

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. In voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.

Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit

Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo.

✓ DO: Use Obvious Keywords 

Use keyword-rich headers—what is someone going to type into Google to try to find your page? This not only improves your search engine results, but also aides in skimming the page once they find it.

Since users are just skimming your page for what they are looking for using the most obvious keywords, make those words the biggest and make them stand out more using headers.

✗ DO NOT: Hide Your Information

Users skim through headers looking for keywords or phrases until they find the section they are looking for. Only then will they actually read any of the content on your page. So, if they don't see the word or phrase they are looking for it in a header, they think the information isn't on that page and will move on.

✓ DO: Format Your Section Headers

Do not just bold text for your section headings, use “header” tags (H2 for major headings, H3 for subheadings) instead.

For screen reader users, header tags are vital in giving a sense of the main topics of the page and enabling easier navigation through your content, much like the table of contents in a book.

Additionally, effective header tags help with search engines — making your site more accessible to everyone.

More on Adding Headers in Drupal Basics


HEADLINES

Headlines matter! You might spend as much time writing your headline as you do writing all of the copy that accompanies it... because the headline really matters.

✓ DO: Write clear, direct headlines using obvious keywords

If Google can’t find it, nobody can find it. So, use keyword-rich headlines and page titles (the words people are Googling to find your content) to increase your results in search engines.

Use clear, simple, and concise headlines. They can be anywhere from 3-15 words. Use them wisely.

✓ DO: Write headlines and page titles that are self-explanatory.

If visitors don’t understand the headline or page title without the images, text, and context, they probably won’t click.

They are also important because they let visitors know they’ve arrived where they were intending to go and found what they were looking for—or lets them know that they should move on to another page.

✓ DO

UO’s College of Education ranks in the top five nationally

✗ DO NOT

Plato, Aristotle, and Being No. 1

✓ DO: Use imperative words, especially in headlines and email subject lines

Using imperative words like see, make, and look gets your content shared—what will your content make your readers do? Using imperative words like download, register, open, and add can increase your read rates and also boost email clicks. 

✓ DO: Make your headlines interesting

While your headlines should be informative, they should not be boring. Headlines should be specific and evoke emotion or curiosity, promote engagement, and be useful. It give readers a stronger reasons to click. 


LINKS

✗ DO NOT: Use "Click Here" or "Read More" or "Learn More" to label your links

It's an accessibility issue. Most screen readers allow users to just jump directly to links and if the title of the link is "Click Here" or "Read More" or "Learn More" it provides no context for where the link goes and what it does. Links should be labeled with a keyword or phrase people are looking for to guide them to the information they want.

It's against best practices. Many users are just scanning your website, looking at headers, lists, and links to tell them what they want to know. If they just see "click here" or "read more" they are forced to read the surrounding text to find out if that is what they are looking. Many users will just skip over that link looking for better information. And that may cause them to miss key information.

Remember, users are skimming for one reason: They don’t want to read!

Seven Problems with Weak Links (from Ann Wylie)

  1. Make it harder to skim.

    Links, being blue and underlined, are highly skimmable. No wonder links and other clickable elements make up nearly half of all “eye stops.”

    But when web visitors skim a generic link, it’s basically a wasted effort. Generic links require people to read extra words to determine the link’s meaning. Remember, the folks are skimming for a reason: They don’t want to read.

  2. Reduce SEO benefits.

    Search engines use anchor text as an additional cue to what the page or document is about.

  3. Make visitors pause before clicking.

    Before clicking a generic link, visitors pause to ask two questions:

    1. Where are you taking me?
    2. Is this a new link, or are you sending me to the same page over and over again?

    This uncertainty causes cognitive strain, which hurts the visitor’s experience on your webpage. It can also cause visitors to hesitate or even feel paralyzed by your webpage.

  4. Don’t comply with The Americans With Disabilities Act.

    People who are visually impaired and use a screen reader hear a list of links read to them. If all yours links say Click here, Read more and Get Started, how is a visually impaired person to decide which to click?

  5. Fail to sell the link.

    Writing “read more” for a link is like writing “buy this” for an ad. They’re calls to action, sure. But not very persuasive ones. Why should I click, read, or buy? That’s your link copy.

  6. Add clutter to the page.

    Every time you write Click here, Read more or Get Started, you’re adding at least two extra words to your webpage. That clutter makes it harder for visitors to pick out relevant information. In fact, sometimes it’s so hard to deal with extraneous clutter that visitors abandon cluttered pages.

  7. Don’t work on mobile devices.

    All of these problems are even more important on mobile devices, when every extra click delays the user significantly.

✗ DO NOT: Bury important links within text

If information is important enough on your website to require a link, do not bury it within your copy. Users are always scanning your website for useful information or links, but when links are buried within paragraphs of text, they are hard to find and are easily missed or ignored.

Consider using a call to action button to guide your users toward the top thing you want them to click on that page.

  • Use buttons for only the most important actions you want users to take on your site, such as "download" or "sign up."
  • Avoid using too many buttons on a page.
  • Do not use buttons for every link on your site.
  • Make the first word of the button a verb if possible. Use "File a Complaint" instead of "Complaint Filing."

More on Call to Action Buttons in Drupal Basics

Four Tips to Fix Your Weak Links (from Ann Wylie)

  1. Focus links on the topic, not on the action.

    Instead of focusing on the action — aka “click here” or “read more” — focus on the topic. Don’t tell web visitors to click; tell them what they’ll find if they do click.

    Change Your Focus

    DO NOT FOCUS ON THE ACTION

    • To learn to write better links, click here.
    • To download your syllabus, click here.
    • “Next year will be our best ever,” says President Michael Schill. Read more

    DO FOCUS ON THE TOPIC

    • Learn to write better links.
    • Download Your Syllabus.
    • “Next year will be our best ever,” says President Michael Schill.

    Notice how focusing on the topic lifts the idea off the screen, promises the reader a benefit and slenderizes the sentence.

  2. Don’t write about mechanics or the system.

    Click here and Read more have some ugly cousins: URLs, email addresses and other references to the mechanics of the web.

    You wouldn’t write, “turn page” in a publication. Why write, “point your browser at” online?

    ✗ DO NOT: Refer to mechanics

    • Click here
    • Go to this page
    • Visit this site
    • Point your browser at
    • Hit your back button
    • Select this link

    ✗ DO NOT: Refer to system

    • Internet, intranet
    • WWW
    • Browser, page, URL
    • Computer
    • Server
    • Email addresses
  3. Write mostly verb-based links.

    These revised links start with a strong verb and an implied “you.” Putting the reader first and leaning on strong verbs makes for good writing, whether you’re crafting links or brochures.

    Don’t refer to the mechanics or the system

    Before:

    • Email President Michael Schill at pres@uoregon.edu.
    • A new blog about Twitter addiction includes tips, Q&A’s and personal recovery stories. Visit the blog at http://www.Stop-Me-Before-I-Tweet-Again.com.
    • Videos of the ceremony are available on the I-Heart-Facebook.com website.
    • Read more about the concert in a story on Radio Kansas’s website.

    After:

    • Email President Michael Schill.
    • A new blog about Twitter addiction includes tips, Q&A’s and personal recovery stories.
    • View videos of the ceremony.
    • Learn more about the concert.

    Never name a category "Links" by itself — this is akin to labeling a category of information "Words" in a print medium. Name the category after what the links are pointing to.

  4. Write links that stand on their own.

    Don’t make visitors read the text around the link to understand it.

    Instead of:

    Carlson also wrote a column about the Holocaust oratorio in today’s Register. Read the piece online.

    Write:

    Read Carlson’s column about the Holocaust oratorio in today’s Register.


ORGANIZATION

✗ DO NOT: Organize your website and write content to reflect your organization

Most people come to your website to actually do something. Don’t make them try and figure out your internal organization or your naming conventions to get something done. Present related tasks and content together on the site, regardless of who does them.


✗ DO NOT: Welcome people to your website and explain what a website is

How many times have you seen this? “I would like to personally welcome you to our department’s web page. We have put together a great collection of information and links to help you learn more about us. I invite you to look around and click the links to the left.” A website is a collection of information, no need to tell your readers that.


✗ DO NOT: Put your mission statement on your home page

Unless this is the most important content your users search for when visiting your site, it should not be on your home page. Don’t tell people what you do—show them by making your most important services and content available immediately on your site. Your users come to your site to do something—make it easy for them.


DOCUMENTS

✗ DO NOT: Post a PDF version of a document unless absolutely necessary

Unless it's something someone needs to print out, try to avoid using PDFs on the web. PDFs and other print documents are not intended for the web and pose issues with searchability, accessibility, and readability. Besides, if the content was written for print, chances are it’s not appropriately formatted for your website.

When creating a PDF document to post on your website, make sure it was created from an electronic document — a Word file, InDesign file, etc. — and not from a scanned document or an image. Screen readers can usually interpret text from an original document but cannot from text in images. Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader can do an accessibility “Quick Check” or “Full Check” on your document. Check Adobe help for your particular version of Adobe for accessibility tools.