Website Writing Guide

Web writing and presentation style

Making content accessible

Writers and editors should write and present information so people with a disability can use the website. Organisations have a legal imperative and moral obligation to abide by these guidelines. 

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the acknowledged standard-bearer for online accessibility. See the website http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/#meaning. Writers and editors should be familiar with the Accessibility guidelines.

Accessible presentation guidelines

Accessible writing style guidelines

Accessibility defined

Accessible presentation guidelines

  • Use a minimum number of fonts.
  • Use left-justified text for languages that are written left to right.
  • Limit text column width - if your website has an elastic design that expands to meet any screen resolution then you may need to introduce more manual line breaks in the text.
  • Make links visually distinct.
  • Make references to a heading or title include the full text of the title.
  • Avoid centrally aligned text.
  • Avoid text that is fully justified (to both left and right margins) in a way that causes poor spacing between words or characters.
  • Avoid chunks of italic text.
  • Avoid overuse of different styles on individual pages and in sites.

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Accessible writing style guidelines

  • Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for the content.
  • Strive for clear and accurate headings and link descriptions. Review every heading, outline and menu to see if the crucial words mean exactly what is intended. Use more common words if they would convey the same meaning.
  • State the topic of the sentence or paragraph at the beginning of the sentence or paragraph.
  • Limit each paragraph to one main idea.
  • Make link phrases brief yet meaningful enough so they make sense when read out of context, alone or as part of a series of links.
  • Use images, illustrations, video, audio, or symbols to clarify meaning.
  • Provide practical examples to clarify content.
  • Avoid idiomatic language, technical jargon and other unfamiliar vocabulary and expressions.
  • Avoid specialised meanings of familiar vocabulary, unless explanations are provided.
  • Avoid unusual foreign words.
  • Avoid the passive voice.
  • Avoid complex sentence structures.

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Accessibility defined

“Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.” http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/accessibility.php

Disabilities dealt with by the World Wide Web Consortium include:

  • visual disabilities
  • hearing impairments
  • physical disabilities
  • speech disabilities
  • cognitive and neurological disabilities
  • multiple disabilities
  • aging-related conditions.

“People with disabilities experience text in many different ways. For some the experience is visual; for some it is auditory; for some it is tactile; for still others it

is both visual and auditory. Some users experience great difficulty in recognizing written words yet understand extremely complex and sophisticated documents when the text is read aloud, or when key processes and ideas are illustrated visually or interpreted as sign language.

For some users, it is difficult to infer the meaning of a word or phrase from context, especially when the word or phrase is used in an unusual way or has been given a specialized meaning; for these users the ability to read and understand may depend on the availability of specific definitions or the expanded forms of acronyms or abbreviations.

User agents, including speech-enabled as well as graphical applications, may be unable to present text correctly unless the language and direction of the text are identified; while these may be minor problems for most users, they can be enormous barriers for users with disabilities. In cases where meaning cannot be determined without pronunciation information (for example, certain Japanese Kanji characters), pronunciation information must be available as well.”

This text can be found at: http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/meaning.html

The tips on this page are edited from the following pages on the World Wide Web Consortium's website:

http://www.w3.org/TR/2008/WD-UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20-20080430/meaning.html

http://www.w3.org/WAI/wcag-curric/sam114-0.htm

Other topics in this section

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