Writing for the Web

Follow University style

Binghamton University has its own style, based on Associated Press (AP) style and the Chicago Manual of Style, but with some customization. When writing for Binghamton's website, it’s important to follow University style because it helps reinforce the University’s brand and professionalism. 

Explore the Binghamton University Style Guide, and for guidance on how University style dictates use of a large group of commonly used words, visit the Preferred Words List.

Guidelines for good web writing

Use the active voice

  • “Passive sentences are some of my challenges” is not as powerful as “Passive sentences challenge me.”

Focus on the reader

  • Your content should be about the reader.
  • Write as though you are writing to one person, not a group of 80,000.
  • Focus on the benefits to the readers.

Make your pages quickly scannable

  • Break text up with headings, subheads, bullet points, callouts, as appropriate.
  • User headings to highlight topics on a page. Headings should be descriptive to help readers find the information they're looking for.
  • Use one — and only one — H1 heading per page to describe the main topic of the page. 
  • Think of headings as an outline for your page content. Heading levels should only increase by one. Example:

One H1 per page

Use H2 headings for each section of your page's content.

H3s nest inside H2 sections.

H4s nest inside H3 sections.

Use H2 for a new section. Not every section needs an H3 or H4. 

Keep it simple and easy to read

  • Put the most important information first.
  • Use subheads that summarize key information and break up text.
  • Use bullets, highlighting and boldface to draw attention to key messages.
  • Use short headings, sentences and paragraphs.

Eliminate unnecessary words

  • Avoid complex words or jargon.
  • Focus on one key topic per page.
  • Use contractions.

 Don’t welcome readers to the page

  • You don’t open a phone book and read “Welcome to the phone book.”

Be clear first, then catchy

  • Top stories, breaking news work well as subject headers.

A good picture can be worth 1,000 words

  • Use good photos and videos to stand in for text if appropriate.
  • Always fill in alt text fields with descriptions of what's in the image.

Provide useful information

  • Include a call to action of where the reader can/should go next, if appropriate.
  • Include links to additional, relevant information.
  • Avoid sending readers to a "dead-end "page — if you have a "thank you" page, for example, include information and links that may be of interest to your audience, so that they continue to engage with your content.