Writing style

When writing content for the web try to be aware of the tone you are using and try not to be too formal. It is also important to avoid using jargon where possible.

Use the 'Active voice' to give your text impact

The 'active voice' is about doing things rather than things being done.  Or in grammatical terms, where the subject of a sentence performs the action denoted by the verb.

Active voice example: The Department conducts a lot of research.

Passive voice example: A lot of research is conducted by the Department.

Use the 'Second person' - address your audience directly

Use 'you' and 'your' (second person) rather than 'them' and 'their' (third person plural) to make your visitors experience more personal.

Use second person: You can contact your Admissions Tutor.

Avoid third person: Students can contact their Admissions Tutor.

Take particular care not to change this in the middle of a sentence e.g. "After a student attends a course, you must fill out an evaluation form."

Use 'Positive instruction' to encourage action

Users are scanning for instructions, advice or guidance, so phrase sentences to say what they should, can, or must do, rather than what they shouldn't, mustn't or can't. Notice how this page uses 'avoid' as the opposite of 'use' instead of 'don't use'.

Use positive instruction: Contact us after 1 March 2012

Avoid negative instruction: Do not contact us before 1 March 2012

'Clarity' - when to use jargon and abbreviations

Explain jargon or abbreviations the first time they are used on a page. Remember that people will not necessarily have seen other pages where this is explained.

Be clear: The lecture takes place on 1 March 2012 in the Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1.

Avoid assumptions: This year's lecture takes place on 1 March 2012 in KE LT1.

You can get away with abbreviations if they are so common that everyone (or all your intended audience) will know them. You don't need to explain that a BSc is a Bachelor of Science, but you do need to explain that a PVC is a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (because to most people it's a type of plastic).

Always consider your audience.

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