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Public Writing: Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web

Public writing is typically also writing for the web. Writing for the web is a well-established area with common best practices. Be sure to consider the following as you write any type of web content (adapted from Usability.gov’s Writing for the Web):

  • Use the words your users use. By using keywords that your users use, you will help them understand the copy and will help optimize it for search engines.
  • Chunk your content. Chunking makes your content more scannable by breaking it into manageable sections.
  • Front-load the important information. Use the journalism model of the “inverted pyramid.” Start with the content that is most important to your audience, and then provide additional details.
  • Use active voice. “The board proposed the legislation” not “The regulation was proposed by the board.”
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs. The ideal standard is no more than 20 words per sentence, five sentences per paragraph. Use dashes instead of semi-colons or, better yet, break the sentence into two. 
  • Use bullets and numbered lists. Don’t limit yourself to using this for long lists—one sentence and two bullets is easier to read than three sentences.
  • Use clear headlines and subheads. Questions are particularly effective.
  • Use images, diagrams, or multimedia to visually reinforce ideas in the text. Make sure all visuals and media are accessible.

Guide Credit

"Public Writing Guide" by Denise Hattwig, Dr. Julie Shayne, and Alyssa Berger (2022) is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.