Writing for the Web Requirements
This page lists requirements for writing content for the EPA website.
- If you think you're ready to publish your page, remove at least 50% of the words.
- Make it immediately clear why (or for whom) the page exists.
- Make it scannable. Area headings and links should be visually distinct and meaningful.
- Write in plain, direct language. Use active voice. Do not write above an 8th-grade level.
- Write for the target audience.
Use Less Text
- Fact: No matter how good your content,
- your users will not read your web page. They will only scan it.
- you’re using too many words. Edit harshly.
Why does this page exist? Focus, focus, focus.
- Be sure to communicate to your users why your content is important for them.
- Start with a single, short statement.
- The most important content on your page should appear first.
- Focus your content only on the purpose of the page.
Make your content scannable
- Users scan for area headings and links – make sure these are visually distinct.
The first level of headings should be coded in <h2>. See the Headings section of the Web Style Guide for more information.
- Make sure the text of area headings and links clearly conveys meaning – it may be the only text the user reads on the entire page.
- Use bulleted (unordered <ul>) or numbered (ordered <ol>) lists wherever you have a series, list, or sequence.
- Avoid lists that are more than seven or eight items. If lists are longer, break them into sublists.
Say what you mean. Be direct.
- Be clear and concise. (Is something a guidance or law? Guideline or requirement?)
- Use plain language.
- Do not write above an 8th-grade level.
- jargon unless it is absolutely crucial.
- strings of nouns (e.g. "EPA Communications Stylebook Writing Guide Chapter") and
- overly complex compound adjectives (e.g. "chemical warfare agent contaminated environmental samples" when you mean "environmental samples contaminated by chemical warfare agents").
- Always use the active voice.
- Paragraphs should not contain more than 50 words; sentences should not contain more than 15 words.
- Fewer syllables per word are preferable when possible.
- Make text timeless (e.g. avoid words like recently or today, etc.).
- Be grammatical. Use ampersands correctly. Capitalize only proper nouns. Spell out numbers under 10. Read all the rules in the Writing Guide chapter of the EPA Communications Stylebook.
- Users need to understand what they’ll get before they click on a link. Links should not say "Click Here" or "More…".
- Link text and the page title of destination page should match or closely match.
- Don't bury links -- especially short links -- in the middle of a paragraph where your visitors may not see them as they skim down the page.
- If the link does not go to a web page (HTML), indicate the type of file/format that is behind the link (video or audio, document download, etc.).
- Do not put up print products as HTML without modifying the content for the web.
- Use fewer words than in the print version. Add appropriate links for the web version.