• Writing for the web

    Writing for the web 

    When you are creating online learning content, you should follow good practice for writing for the web in general. People read differently on the web, quite often scanning more than reading word by word, so your writing style can help users do this. 

    Open science often involves specialist or technical language but remember this can still be written clearly and in plain English! In fact, the more complex a topic the more important it is to write in plain English. 

    Some key guidelines to follow include (summarised from Nielsen Norman Group, Gov.uk and Usability.gov): 

    • Chunk your content. Chunking makes your content more scannable by breaking it into manageable sections.

    • Frontload important information (the inverted pyramid style) starting with the conclusion (need to know -> nice to know). While with online learning it all should be need to know, it can be useful to have ‘nice to know’ for those learners who want to find out more. 

    • Use half the word count (or less) than conventional writing.

    • Use short sentences, paragraphs and words. Use dashes instead of semi-colons, or better yes, break the sentence in two. Use one idea per paragraph. 

    • Use clear headlines and subheads. Questions, especially those with pronouns, are particularly effective.

    • Highlight keywords (links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others)

    • 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 pronouns. The learner is “you.” The trainer is “we.” This creates cleaner sentence structure and more approachable content.

    • Use the active voice. “The board proposed the legislation” not “The regulation was proposed by the board.”

    • Use images, diagrams, or multimedia to visually represent ideas in the content. Videos and images should reinforce the text on your page.

    • Technical terms. Where you need to use technical terms, you can. They’re not jargon. You just need to explain what they mean the first time you use them.

    Sources / further resources/ activities