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Writing style

Writing content for the web is different from writing for print.

How users read on the web (opens new window) is different from how they read other media. When writing for the web, we should ask: what does the user want to know or do? Content should always be easy to read, precise and allow the user to scan the page quickly for the information they are looking for. Poorly written content can frustrate a user and confuse or obstruct them from successfully completing their task unaided.

Aim to only write content which is:

  • specific
  • informative
  • clear and to the point
  • important for a customer to complete their task

Confusing jargon, terminology and even abbreviations can lead to a customer contacting us through other channels for help. 

Great web content uses:

  • short sentences
  • subheadings
  • simple vocabulary

Plain English

Plain English (opens new window) is a writing style which focuses on producing clear, transparent content, free of unnecessary jargon, technical terminology, or confusing words. Using every day words in short, clear sentences is the fastest route to making a user understand what you are trying to communicate, as well as give them what they need.

When considering Plain English content:

  • stop and think before you start writing
  • prefer short words
  • use everyday English whenever possible
  • keep your sentence length down to an average of 15 to 20 words
  • use active verbs as much as possible
  • imagine you are talking to your reader
  • and always check that your writing is clear, helpful, human and polite
  • be concise

Crystal Mark accreditation

Chichester District Council's website continues to maintain its Internet Crystal Mark (opens new window) from the Plain English Campaign.

Launched in 1990, and the first mark of its kind, the Crystal Mark represents commitment to using plain English. The Crystal Mark is now used by over 2,000 organisations who want to provide the clearest possible information. It is the only internationally-recognised mark of its kind. 

You can view a list of organisations which currently have a Crystal Mark (opens new window).

Internet Crystal Mark logo

Search engine optimisation

Search engines (such as Google) are where most users start when looking for information on our website. Our content must make it easy for users to find out what they're looking for using search.

To ensure that each page is easy for users to find:

  • use meaningful titles for web pages that make sense to user needs
  • use plain English
  • add keyword terms that users would use to describe services (such as bins, rubbish, litter, waste)
  • use the same vocabulary as our users in the page title, summary and first paragraph and headings, so that users are more likely to find it.
  • use friendly URLs where appropriate to make pages easier to find
  • use tools such as Google Trends (opens new window) to compare alternative keywords and compare trends, the words you use to describe your content may not be the words your users use to try and find it.