Standards and guidelines for online copy

It’s up to you – designated contributors and owners of CCBC website content – to help users find the information they need, when they need it.

The following guidelines and standards will assist you in presenting information accurately, clearly and succinctly.

Know your audience and your purpose

Good writing of any kind begins with a clear goal and a solid understanding of your audience. Determine who your audience is and what they need. Adapt your voice and content to fit your audience, and ask yourself: “why did they seek out this Web content?” Re-evaluate your efforts periodically to make sure you are still on target. When you have multiple audiences, target your core audience.

Hint: Always ask yourself first, “what does my audience want to know/find/do?” then, “what else do they need to know to be successful in their goals?”

Establish voice

Voice is created through your word choice, your application of style and grammar, sentence structure and more. It can be casual or formal, impassioned or neutral, mocking or respectful. Keeping your target audience in mind, develop an appropriate voice that fits the context of your message.

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Make text easy to scan and navigate

Most web users do not fully read online content. Instead, they scan pages looking for key bits of information to help them reach their goals. This makes it increasingly important to write concisely and make content easy to scan and navigate.
  • Keep sentences, lists and paragraphs short and to the point.
  • Use titles, links, headings and sub-headings to make the content easier to find and scan.
  • Place the most important and relevant text first.
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Put important information first

The “inverted pyramid” writing model places important information at the beginning of sentences, important sentences at the beginnings of paragraphs and key paragraphs at the beginning of a block of copy. Other detail and background information are included in order of diminishing importance. This technique is valuable on the web for the same reason it was important in 19th century newspapers: the reader can leave the text at any time and still understand its main point.

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Be precise about mechanics and style

Grammatical mistakes, typos and misspellings can spoil a user’s experience and damage CCBC’s credibility. Not all readers notice, but plenty do. As an academic institution we often are – and should be – held to a higher standard of perfection in our communications.

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Using hyperlinks

Links to other content provide the essence of the web experience for users, but they must be used and managed carefully.
  • Incorporate links that add depth to your content
  • Keep links current – review regularly
  • Let users know when they are leaving the site
  • Link only to appropriate content
  • Make links usable
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Plan your content strategy

Ensure your content stays relevant, accurate and is posted on time by having a well laid out plan, such as a content calendar.

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