Writing for the Web: Content Best Practices


  • Rachael Taft, Site Administrator
  • Ext. 3779
  • Email Us

Write for your audience (Hint: It’s not “everyone.”)

The same information may need to be presented in different ways for different audiences to understand. Different audiences will have different questions. You would discuss building permits differently with an experienced contractor than a homeowner doing their first DIY project.

Keep it conversational

Write like you’re talking to the customer on the phone. You’re a person, not a faceless government entity.

  • Use common words. Always try to explain industry-specific jargon or technical terms in common language that the general public can understand. Write with clarity. Spell out acronyms on first reference.
  • Write in the first and second person. (“We will get back to you in two days.”)
  • Use the active voice.
  • An active voice writing style gets ideas across in a simple and clear manner:
    • The Board proclaimed Aug. 8 as Purple Heart Day in Manatee County.
  • The passive voice is the bureaucratic tone we're trying to avoid.
    • Aug. 8 was proclaimed Purple Heart Day by the Board.

Think mobile

More than one-third of our website visitors come on their phone or tablet. How will your content look on a small screen? Can I tell from the first sentence if I’m on the right page for what I’m trying to accomplish? 

Make content easy to skim

Most people skim online content for keywords that relate to what they’re looking for. Blocks of text with long, winding sentences are difficult to scan and often contain a lot of fluff.

  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
  • Break up text with headers that describe a new block or paragraph of content.
  • Use bullet points and tables.

The inverted pyramid

We tend to write like we were taught in school, starting with an introduction and easing into our main point, trying to fill as much space as we can.

Cut out at least half of your words and move your main point to the top. Start with the most important information to cut down on the time your reader has to find things. Beneath the critical information, add the extra “nice to know” information.

Preferred uses for common terms

Manatee County Government should always be capitalized. "MCG" and "the County" may be used on second reference.

Use online instead of "On-Line." Only capitalize the word if it begins a sentence, as in: "Online applications can be found by clicking ... "

Use email instead of “e-mail.”

Capitalize an employee's title when it is used immediately before the person's name (i.e., Building and Development Services Department Director John Barnott). Lowercase the employee's title if it follows a name (i.e., John Barnott, director of the Building and Development Services Department).

On first reference use Manatee County Board of County Commissioners. Subsequent references include the "BCC," "the Board" and "the Commission."

Manatee County Government Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton

Additional Resources