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Writing for the Web

Users want to find what they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible. Web-oriented writing and editing are essential for optimal content delivery.

Key concepts

1. Omit nonessential words. Users don’t read. They scan.

2. Convey one idea per paragraph.

3. Put the most interesting content at the top of the page. That will encourage users to scroll down for more.

4. Categorize content according to users’ needs, not by departmental organization or hierarchy.

5. When creating links, highlight only the words that most accurately describe the destination of the link. Never use “click here.”

Do

1. Use language that is clear and simple.

2. Facilitate scanning with headers, bullet points, lists, and captions.

3. Provide links to related and additional detail.

4. Use an active voice: “The company published the book.”

Don’t

1. Expect your visitors to read everything.

2. Put everything on one page.

3. Use a passive voice: “The book was published by the company.”

4. List items in a paragraph to save room.

Consistency of style

The only Web constant is change. Stylistic debates continue (Is it E-mail, e-mail, or email?). Style manuals will help, but the most important style and usage point is consistency. You must adhere to the style you choose.

Virginia Tech Style Guide

University Relations has produced a style guide that addresses many issues you are likely to encounter in Virginia Tech-related communications. Standard university terminology is found here. If you have any questions regarding a specific university entity, confirm information directly with that entity, in the university’s printed faculty/staff/student directory, or through the University Relations Marketing and Publications group at 540-231-9468 or lovegrov@vt.edu.

Copyright issues

Copyright protects expression – both your expression and that of others. All original expression is eligible for copyright protection as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form. In fact, almost all original expression is protected as soon as it is expressed. Virtually everything you can upload and download on the Web is protected by copyright.

Items NOT eligible for copyright protection include:

  • Ideas
  • Facts
  • Titles
  • Names
  • Short phrases
  • Blank forms

While it’s easy to download and copy files such as text, photographs, graphics, sound, and movies from the Web, you must have permission from the copyright holder to use them on your Web pages (or anywhere else). Under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the university is obligated to take appropriate action if it receives a complaint that copyrighted material is being published over our network without permission from the copyright holder.

Copyright notice on your pages

Download the Copyright Permission Form (PDF | 21KB)


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