How to Format Copy for the Web

How to Format Copy for the Web
jtomasino3 Thu, 04/30/2015 - 10:40

The vast majority of web users don't read webpages word-for-word. Instead, they scan them, looking for the information they came to your website to find.  

Use these formatting techniques to create scannable, easy-to-read pages.


1. Use Headings and Subheadings on content-heavy pages

  • Headings that identify sections of your page should be marked with actual heading tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6) so that screen readers and other accessibility tools can identify your headings and then allow the user to easily skip ahead to a specific heading.
  • All words are capitalized except articles, prepositions (and, a, the, of) and coordinating conjunctions, unless they are the first or last word.

2. Write meaningful titles and subheads

  • A strong title is vital for a web story. If it doesn’t grab your readers’ attention, they’ll leave.
    • Use a max of eight words.
    • Include important keywords.
    • Use strong verbs.
    • Avoid using adjectives and prepositions.
  • Subheads break up the page into easily digestible chunks.
    • Aim for informative, not clever.
    • Questions are often the most helpful subheadings.

3. Break up content with bulleted lists

  • Lists make it easy for readers to quickly identify all the items or steps in a process.
  • Seven list items max.

4. Split up long sentences 

  • Average length is 20 words or less.
  • No single sentence should be longer than 28 words (and that’s a stretch).

5. Keep paragraphs short

  • One idea per paragraph.
  • Only one or two sentences.
  • Fifty words max.
  • Very often, paragraphs on a webpage are only one sentence long. This is OK.
  • Break up long paragraphs with subheads.

6. Limit the number of words on each webpage

  • Use half of the words (or less) than writing for print.
  • Rather than placing all of the information on a single webpage:
    • Break your information into chunks.
    • Put each chunk on its own page.
    • Connect the pages using links.

7. Use lots of white space

  • Faced with large chunks of text, most web users will leave the page immediately.