Website Writing Guide

Web writing and presentation style

Use of PDFs

It is very common to provide large documents or those that contain complex formatting or diagrams in PDF format on the Web. PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format by Adobe Systems.

When creating and making documents available as PDFs:

  • Before creating a PDF or making one available consider if the information would be better presented in the body of the Web page as HTML. The HTML version will be more accessible to everyone and more easily indexed by search engines.
  • Only provide PDFs where the information being provided is complex, vast or contains graphics or diagrams too difficult to recreate on a Web page. For example, a one hundred page annual report lends itself to being made available in PDF format but a three to four page fact sheet does not.
  • Ensure the PDF is accessible. Use Acrobat's accessibility tools to check for accessibility compliance.
  • Provide an alternative means for users to access the content of the PDF. Provide one or more of the following:
    • a Web page containing the content
    • a Microsoft Word version
    • a rich text format (RTF) version
    • the contact details of someone who can provide the document by a means other than online.
  • Provide the complete title of the PDF unless the title is very long, cryptic or unlikely to be understood by users. In such cases, provide an alternative title or a brief explanation of the document.
  • Always provide an abstract of the contents of a PDF - at least a sentence accompanying the hyperlink.
  • Use the title or the explanation of the PDF as the hyperlink. Hyperlinks stand out on a page, so use the hyperlink to draw users’ attention to the document title to reinforce it in their minds. This will help them to recognise relevant documents at a glance. For this reason, avoid using the terms, click here or download as the hyperlink to a document.
  • Indicate in brackets after the hyperlink that the document is a PDF (or other format) and indicate the size in kilobytes.

For example:

  • See our new technical instructions (PDF 34KB) for installers of the new energy-efficient hot water systems for domestic use .
  • See our new technical instructions (PDF 34KB) (Word 145KB) for installers of the new energy-efficient hot water systems for domestic use.
    Note: where a document is offered in multiple formats, use the format type and size as the hyperlink.
  • Smart Homes fact sheet, click here to download.


Other topics in this section

Guide Home | Write directly and succinctly | Paragraph and sentence styles | Heading hierarchy |
Web page navigation
| Scrolling and page length | Making content accessible |
Presenting instructions | Writing for Google | Capitals in headings | Hyperlinking styles |
| Brackets | PDFs |

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