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Writing for Websites


People read differently on the web—unlike when they are reading a book from cover to cover. Users don’t read everything word for word on a website. Below are some tips on how to develop bite-sized content that is both compelling and easy to skim and scan.

Be concise

The length of your copy depends on the purpose of the page and your overall message, but a minimum of 300 words is a good rule of thumb for SEO purposes. Share interesting, relevant information that will be of value to your audiences. Statistics, research, and quotes are effective ways to add substance to your copy. Make the content easy to read by breaking it up into bulleted lists or by using subheadings.

A student testimonial with a photo of the student and this quote: "I grew up in an environment where education was only seen as something that was for rich people. Then I saw that Michigan was providing ful tuition. That opened up the opportunity for me to pursue my passions." Andrew K., student
Example of a blockquote

Write clearly and simply

Speak the same language as your audience. Avoid using internal jargon. If your audience is more technical, then you can use technical language in your content. But otherwise, stick to simpler language that will resonate with a broader audience.

Connect with your audience

Most website content should be more conversational than formal. Be authentic. Write as if you were having a one-on-one conversation with the reader.

Make it personal

Write in first and second person—”we” and “you” instead of “School of Kinesiology” and “undergraduate student.”

  • Write this: Our undergraduate students, in all of our majors, are valued, sought-after, and respected.
  • Not this: U-M School of Kinesiology undergraduate students, in all majors, are valued, sought-after, and respected

Show don’t tell

Provide stories and images of real-life examples of real students, faculty, research, courses, and alumni. Give site visitors a snapshot of what is really happening in your school/department and on campus.

Include a call to action

What do you want your audience to do? Apply today. Get Involved. Learn more. Let them know what they can do next.

Call to action buttons that read I'm Read to Apply and I Want to Learn More
Examples of call-to-action buttons

Limit each paragraph to one main point or idea

Start each paragraph with the main point or conclusion in the first one or two sentences. Then go on to explain it. By doing this, you allow your readers to skim your entire article and get an overview by simply reading the first few sentences.

Use meaningful headings

Well-composed headings at the beginning of each section will help your readers to skim and scan the entire page looking for points of interest.

Use an active voice

Use action words and write active sentences and headlines; the passive voice takes the punch out of your message.

Provide links

The use of links is a major difference between writing for the web and writing for print publications. Writing content based on a well-developed information architecture (site structure) will help you provide links to relevant information and avoid frustrating your readers with a site that’s either overly repetitive or too vague.


Have a proofreader or a colleague who has not previously seen the material review your content. Spelling errors and typos can reflect poorly on your organization, especially in a university setting.

Check facts and links

Incorrect or out-of-date information is useless to users and wastes their time. Double-check phone numbers, statistics, dates, titles, addresses, and link URLs for accuracy before you post your content.

Keep page types in mind when drafting content

In general, when developing your content keep your site’s hierarchy in mind:

  • Home page and core landing pages act as “big picture” introductory gateways to a site or section. These are great areas to feature key marketing messages, visuals, stories, and teasers to other relevant pages.
  • Interior subpages are best suited for the more detailed information about specific topics.
A photo of Hatcher Library on the Diag with text over the photo: Culture Journey - The University of Michigan is on a journey to build a culture that fosters trust and provides a strong foundation to live up to our highest ideals.
An example of a hero image with messaging

Create a content plan/calendar

Document what sections of your site need to be updated regularly, when and how they will be maintained, and who is responsible for them.