- Entice readers by making it as easy as possible for them to absorb our message.
- Brevity: Be brief and concise.
- Clarity: Use clear direct language. Avoid jargon, abbreviations, and technical terms whenever possible.
- Inverted Pyramid: State your main points immediately, and then expand on them. This approach ensures that even readers who are scanning will get the gist of your message.
- Short Sentences, Short Paragraphs: Keep it simple and break the copy into bite-sized chunks for easy reading and scanning.
- One Idea Per Paragraph: Since readers scan first, make it easy for them to pick up the major ideas or arguments.
- Conversational Approach: Don’t be too stuffy when writing for the web, but maintain a professional voice.
- Active Voice: Use the active voice, not the passive voice.
- Beware Excessive Punctuation: Minimize exclamation marks. Break long sentences in two. State the idea more simply.
- Highlight Action: Specific actions go up front, rather than paragraphs below in the web page. Make it immediately clear how readers can act with the use of an appropriate link or button.
- Edit Ruthlessly: This can’t be said often enough: brevity is essential. Pare down the text, excising unnecessary words.
- Track Down Typos: Mistakes are equated with a lack of credibility. Use spellcheck and proper grammar.
- Accuracy: Information must be accurate, up-to-date, and complete. Pay attention to grammar, spelling (especially accuracy with people’s names), punctuation, consistency, form of style, citation of sources, and objectivity of language.
- Jargon: Avoid jargon.
- Initials: Avoid (or at least explain) initialisms; e.g., use Congregation Engagement Manager instead of CEM.
- Opinions: Refrain from personal opinions. Instead, challenge the read to consider [subject].
- Contact: Provide a contact name and email address whenever possible.
- Headlines: Make headlines brief — try to keep them to one line — and to the point. Subject, verb, object is a good basic rule.
- Sub-headings: Use sub-headings throughout the story to give readers an indication of the story’s trajectory or some of its key points. Remember, most people will be scanning first, reading second, so tempt them to dig deeper.
- Strong Opening: People tend to read in an F shape, starting at the top left of a document and reading the entire first line, then scanning as the shape of the letter indicates. Make your first sentence engaging and include some keywords.
- Bulleted Lists: Whenever possible, list items using bullets, rather than employing a string of words separated by commas. Lists draw the eye more easily, which makes them more likely to be read.
- Links: Links are a standard component of online writing. They allow the writer to give readers an opportunity to explore aspects of a topic more deeply without breaking the flow of the copy.
- NEVER use link words Click Here or Read More; it is clumsy and suggests a lack of familiarity with web conventions. Use integrated links: the keywords are used as the direct link to a URL.
- URLs: Remember to use lowercase for your URLs and never use MiXeD case URLs. This is important for technical, usability, and SEO reasons. Test all hyperlinks before finalizing.
- Photos and visuals such as charts, graphs, and tables: Visuals draw the reader’s attention and help break up blocks of copy as effectively as short paragraphs. Include images whenever possible, but be sure to use information-carrying images that show content that’s relevant to the task or topic at hand.
- Accessibility: Learn more about creating accessible documents and websites on the Council of Ontario Universities’ Accessible Campus website.
- Usability: Visit Usability 101: Introduction to Usability by Jakob Nielsen for an introduction to this important topic.
- We use the style guidelines found in the Canadian Press Stylebook (CP), with the exception of time format.
- Time format is programmed into our WordPress website, Facebook, Twitter, calendar apps, etc. with no periods in am and pm. We have no ability to change it.
- CP recommends a time format of 2 – 2:30 p.m. (dropping the zeros at the top of the hour, not using pm in both places in a date range, and using periods in am and pm.)
- Time format in computer applications is almost always written without periods, uses double zeros at the top of the hour, and includes am or pm twice in a date range. The Fairlawn website is not alone in this.
- Here is an example from CBC website, “Live broadcast: 7:30 am – 9:00 am ET, followed by Q&A between Tremonti and the audience.” This is the same format programmed into our WordPress website.
Follow the CP guidelines for date format.
Write the day of the week in full.
Write the month in full if it is not part of a specific date.
Use abbreviations for the month when it is used in a specific date. For example, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.
Abbreviate these months: January, February, August, September, October, November, and December when they are used in a specific date.
Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June, and July even when used in a specific date.
CP recommends three-letter abbreviations for the months when used in graphs and charts —without the period.
- Follow the CP guidelines to use Canadian spelling; e.g., neighbourhood (with u).
- CP recommends the Canadian spelling of program, not the British spelling of programme.
Brackets and Quotes
- Follow the CP guidelines when combining punctuation with brackets or quotes.
- Follow the CP (and Oxford) guidelines.
- Do not use the Oxford comma, or serial comma, with lists. No comma before the “and” or “or”.
- a, b and c.
- d, e, f or g.
- Use the Oxford comma only to prevent ambiguity.
- Follow the CP guidelines with the use of hyphens.
- Use the abbreviation ext. for extensions.
- As in: 416-481-6848, ext. 25