Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Community

Web Content Writing

 Introduction to Web Writing

Rather than reading entire sentences and pages, web users:

  • scan pages and
  • look for keywords and clickable actions.

Effective web writing allows users to easily scan a page and evaluate whether it contains their desired information. Simple tips include:

  • Start with the conclusion, then follow with the supporting details.
  • Less is more - if you can say it with half the words, do so.
  • Break ideas up with bullet points or short paragraphs.

 Content Strategy

Content Reduction and Reorganization

A major goal of the recent website redesign is to make sites prospect-friendly and help all users locate information easily.

Content reduction and reorganization (which began with new Information Architecture for all school sites) is intended to achieve the following:

  • Better "Way Finding" – helping users find the content they need. Clear and consistent terminology should be taken into consideration. Naming conventions implemented in navigation, call-to-action buttons and text links should match content titles and clearly inform users where they are and where they're heading.
  • Emotional Impact and Storytelling – connecting with the user. This could be through a photo, video, headline; even at deeper levels, we still want to take into consideration "Why Pepperdine?" vs. competitors. (Think of the student not just as the subject, but as the hero of this story.)
  • Economizing – editing existing content to get our point across as quickly as possible. Photos and headers can break up longer chunks of text and make a page easier to navigate.
  • De-Cluttering – getting rid of content that is no longer needed. If old files and folders still exist in the site directory, Google can find those pages and produce them in search results regardless of whether or not these pages have content or are linked within the site. Therefore, it is highly recommended that the continual deletion of old content/files/pictures/folders continue.
  • OmniUpdate (OU) is not an archive  If your department would like to archive old content, this should be done on something like Google drive or an s-drive. This will make it easier not just for search engines to parse the website content for relevant results, but for those at Pepperdine who will be working in Omni Update to manage content and implement the above strategy.

Think lean!

 Tone and Voice


The web demands an immediate and authentic connection to the user. We want to be informative and welcoming all at once. As an academic institution, we don't play fast and loose with grammar. At the same time, we're not overly dry. We're trying to "warm up" the tone of our web content, in general.

Hierarchy of content on the page and on the entire site can help inform both tone and presentation:

  • Home page and higher level landing pages feature short text, headlines, and a greater number of visuals. At this level, we advise the use of 1st-person narrative, speaking directly to the prospect ("We have..." and "You'll find..." etc.).
  • Think of the higher-level pages as the user walking into our "lobby" and getting a feel for the place. This could be their first "visit" to Pepperdine. Deeper level pages can and often need to go into greater detail – admission requirements and deadlines, program descriptions, etc.
  • Brevity is still favored.

Active Voice and Verb Tense Considerations

  • Active (preferred): George Pepperdine graduated from Parsons Business College.
  • Passive: George Pepperdine's education was completed at Parsons Business College.

Use the present tense for current offerings as a "neutral" overall stance:

  • Present (preferred): The Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology is among the first in the nation to offer a Master of Arts in Educational Computing.
  • Past: The Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology was among the first in the nation to offer a Master of Arts in Educational Computing.

Present tense also communicates a sense of relevancy and "freshness," which is important on the web. To this end, older rankings and photos that are dated should be removed or replaced.

 Web Style Rules

  • Ampersand  Use of the ampersand (&) is restricted to the main navigation and, in some cases, the side navigation. For page content and headings, we will spell out the word "and." It is best to employ the use of "and" when in doubt so that content remains consistent across the site, including navigation terms.
  • Oxford comma – used in the interest of consistency (Ex: We offer chemistry, biology, and physics.)
  • End-of-sentence spacing – A single space is used after periods (as opposed to two spaces).
  • Degree abbreviations – should omit periods – EdD, MA, JD, LLM – in all instances.
  • Emphasis – please do not underline (it looks like a link on the web) and instead use bold or italics. And please, outside of a legitimate campus emergency, avoid the use of exclamation points.

 Enhancing the Web Experience

Common sense and simplicity is likely the best overall approach for quality, accurate content that is friendly to both prospects and search engines.

A well-organized site that communicates efficiently will rank well and enable users to access what they need to get to know Pepperdine.

The "3 W's of the Web Experience" can be helpful. These refer to three questions a site visitor is likely to ask themselves:

  1. What is this page about?
  2. Why am I here?
  3. Where to next?

To this end, think of each web page as having a beginning, middle, and end:

  • Beginning – reiterate where they are and what type of content is on the page; confirm they're in the right place.
  • Middle – provide the relevant content or links to further/deeper content. (Some pages are transitional – they allow the user to assess where they are and where they want to go next.)
  • End – provide a next step; it might be to schedule a tour; it might be to learn more about how to apply for a certain degree program; it might be to begin the application process.

Remember that every very web page should have a purpose and help the prospect move forward in the Pepperdine journey.

General Guidelines

People scan Web pages in search of the information that is important to them.

  • Use the inverted pyramid style, starting with the most important information or conclusion first, then follow with more content.
  • Use short paragraphs with the first paragraph being the most important. Try to use one idea per paragraph.
  • Use half the words that you would use in standard writing.
  • Don't use your space or time for welcoming people. They are looking for valuable content and answers.
  • Bulleted lists are preferred. You can link to longer pages that have more details if you use this technique.
  • Use essential, meaningful sub-headings. Don't try to be clever or play on words. Some readers, such as non-native speakers of English, may not understand the pun intended.
  • Remember it is best not to underline content. Use sub-headings and bold or highlight keywords.
  • Strategically name the titles of your Web pages.
  • More information on writing on the Web

Grammatical Style of Common Technology Words or Phrases

The Chicago Manual of Style Online recommends the following words and phrases be used accordingly.

  • website
  • online
  • Internet
  • intranet
  • email (singular and plural)
  • Email (at the beginning of a sentence)
  • e-commerce, e-health, etc...
  • E-commerce (at the beginning of a sentence)
  • log on, logged on, log off, logged off
  • log-in page (adjective form)

For any other questions or concerns, please consult IMC's Editing and Writing web page.