Website style guide - W
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Plain English must be used when writing web copy for external visitors, so avoid using these words:
- agenda (unless it’s for a meeting)
- collaborate (use working with)
- commit/pledge (we need to be more specific - we’re either doing something or we’re not)
- deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered - not abstract concepts like improvements or priorities)
- deploy (unless it’s military or software)
- dialogue (we speak to people)
- disincentivise (and incentivise)
- facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you’re helping)
- foster (unless it’s children)
- impact (do not use this as a synonym for have an effect on, or influence)
- key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing is not key - it’s probably important)
- land (as a verb only use if you’re talking about aircraft)
- leverage (unless in the financial sense)
- progress (as a verb - what are you actually doing?)
- promote (unless you’re talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
- slimming down (processes do not diet)
- strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)
- tackling (unless it’s rugby, football or some other sport)
- transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)
Avoid using metaphors – they do not say what you actually mean and lead to slower comprehension of your content. For example:
- drive (you can only drive vehicles, not schemes or people)
- drive out (unless it’s cattle)
- going forward (it’s unlikely we are giving travel directions)
- in light of (superfluous - do not use it)
- in order to (superfluous - do not use it)
- one-stop shop (we are a port, not a retail outlet)
- ring fencing
- simple or easy (if users do not find something simple or easy, they can feel foolish)
With all of these words you can generally replace them by breaking the term into what you’re actually doing. Be open and specific.
These lists are not exhaustive, but are an indicator to show you the sort of language that confuses users.
The principles of website writing are:
- Plain English.
- Short sentences.
- Short paragraphs.
- Include keywords your audience are familiar with and likely to type into Google.
- Avoid time sensitive words (eg ‘coming soon’, ‘recently’ - use dates instead).
- Informal and friendly, but professional tone (eg no explanation marks).
- Be direct (eg avoid words like ‘please’) and concise (avoid words and phrases that aren’t necessary and only add clutter, eg ‘in order to’).
- Consistency - adhere to the University Editorial style guide.
Write in a news style. Journalists use Plain English, short paragraphs (often one sentence long), display a lot of information in a few words, and structure their content so the most important information comes first (both in a story and within each sentence). Do not write in an academic style.
This ensures your content is accessible to a wider audience, including international students with a lower level of English, scannable, and quick and easy to digest.
If you have any questions or comments about this guide, contact us.
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