Formatting for the web

When writing a Word or Google document for uploading to the web, you need to format it correctly, so the person uploading it can make it appear as you want.

Formatting paragraphs

Before you begin writing, make sure the paragraph formatting for your Word doc looks something like this:

Paragraph screen shot

Under 'Spacing', you want a 0 point space before and after the paragraphs. You'll now have to hit 'return' twice to create a paragraph break in your doc. This is important, because automatic formatting can be lost when the document is uploaded to the internet, and your text will then appear as one big block on the web page.

In a Google document, go to 'Format' > 'Line spacing', and remove any spaces before or after paragraphs to achieve the same effect.

Line spacing doesn't have to be 1.3, but creating a little space between lines aids readability.

Clarify which page you're writing

To make clear which web page you're working on, add its web address (URL) to the top of your doc.

When building a new site, you'll find the directory structure name of every web page in the information architecture (IA) document, which the site-build manager puts together and shares with team members.

Showing heading levels

Headings help your reader digest information, and make it easier for search engines to find your page and its most important content.

Indicate a heading level in square brackets before the heading itself. For example:

[h1]Apply for honours
Honours is an extra year of study at the end of an undergraduate degree (this can vary depending on your course).

[h2]How to apply
[h3]1.Check your eligibility

H1 stands for 'heading level one', h2 for 'heading level two', and so on. Our CMS only allows for five levels of heading.

Remember to use sentence case for headings. Only capitalise the first letter of the first word, and any proper nouns. Do not use a full stop.

Only use one h1 heading

It's very important to have only one h1 on the page because it indicates the page heading. You can use h2s, h3s and so on multiple times.

Paragraph spacing window

Use heading levels wisely

Search engines get confused if your headings are out of order. In other words, do not go from an h1 to an h3 heading without an h2 in between.

You don't need to format headings on your Word doc by making the font larger or bolding the heading text to show if it's h1, h2 and so on, but doing so will give you, and the website builder, a better idea of how the page should look on screen.

Linking to web pages

You may want to include links to other useful content. Link text should describe the content you're linking to accurately. Never link from phrases like ' click here '.

If a web page you're linking to already exists on the internet, simply hyperlink it in the Word or Google document. The person uploading your content will ensure the hyperlink translates to the new web page.

If you want to link from your doc to a page on a new website and you're not exactly sure what the page's URL will be, use the most likely directory structure. Underline the words you want to link from and include the directory structure in brackets immediately after it. You can highlight the link to make it easier to spot.

For example:

We offer work experience programs, giving you the opportunity to develop connections and enhance your career prospects.

Linking to documents other than web pages

Alert the user if you link to content other than a web page – like a word doc, pdf or email address – by including the file type and size in the link. For example:

Individual assignment coversheet (pdf, 25KB)
Do not write Individual assignment coversheet , or even Individual assignment coversheet (pdf, 25KB).

Please see the section about linking on the Web Style Guide for more information, including advice about linking to email addresses and webmasters.

A note on links

Link directly to the page you want the user to go to. There is nothing more annoying that being directed to a general introductory page, and having to navigate to the page you need from there.

Also, don't overload the page with links; too many can distract users. Some writers can fall into the trap of weighing down a page with every link a student might conceivably want. There is no need – navigating a lot of one-stop shops is a challenging experience for website users.

In particular, you don't need to link to pages that can easily be found via the site navigation. We want to avoid users being stuck in a vortex of links from which they may never emerge.

More information

To find out more about writing, designing and building user-friendly web pages, check out our Web Style Guide.