Website Writing Guide
Web writing and presentation style
Write directly and succinctly
Users appreciate content that gets to the point directly and succinctly. They usually find content written in this manner easier to understand and less frustrating. If they want to undertake a task such as buy, sell or inform themselves, they appreciate being able to get on with the task.
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The active voice is a writing technique in which you begin with your sentence with the subject. The subject is usually the person or thing that is doing the action - the verb. Using the active voice, rather than the passive voice, allows you to compose more succinct sentences.
In the example below, the Manager is the subject of the sentence - the person doing the asking.
Active voice: The Manager asked the Premier to open the exhibition.
Passive voice: The Premier was asked by the Manager to open the exhibition.
This next sentence is about a tax invoice, and as it is the subject of the sentence, it should be placed at the start of the sentence.
Active voice: A tax invoice will be emailed to you once you have paid for the workshop.
Passive voice: Once you have paid for the workshop, a tax invoice will be emailed to you.
Using the passive voice is not wrong and sometimes unavoidable where the subject of the sentence does not stand out.
Writing in the active voice also encourages writers to get to the point. This approach is usually appreciated by users because it saves them time and helps comprehension.
For example, when describing a new product or grant scheme, start the sentence with the description, not its aim or rationale, because the reader will be far more interested in the former.
- An environment education program has been established as part of the Government’s environment strategy.
- In order to implement the Government’s environment strategy, an education program has been established.
- Bundling newspapers together can slow the sorting process so leave them unbundled.
- Do not bundle newspapers together because it slows the sorting process.
- Content on the Web should not be presented in a linear, sequential manner unless the website is purely instructional, such as an online tutorial.
- Unless the website is purely instructional, such as an online tutorial, content on the Web should not be presented in a linear, sequential manner.
Hint: Most sentences that start with, To or In order to, usually present the rationale or, the why, before the action or the subject of the sentence. For example:
- Find out how to save water in your home at the savewater website.
- In order to enhance the Department’s commitment to environmental sustainability, a website has been created to encourage water-saving practices in households - www.savewater.gov.au
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 your content accessible |
Presenting instructions | Writing for Google | Capitals in headings | Hyperlink style |
Acronyms | Brackets | PDFs |