Writing for the Web

Writing for the web varies significantly from writing for journals, newspapers or other print media. People visiting websites tend to scan pages for information pertinent and useful to them. If they do not find it quickly, they often move on to another site.

Here are some basic guidelines to help structure and organize content written for Military Community and Family Policy websites and applications:

  • Brevity is essential. Avoid forcing readers to scroll down through text when possible — you risk losing them.
  • Understand that readers tend to skip over paragraphs that are too long. To make content more accessible:
    • Strive to create paragraphs that are no longer than three lines in a Word document. Paragraphs with four lines should be the absolute maximum and used sparingly.
    • Break longer paragraphs into shorter paragraphs or lists for easier scanning.
    • Avoid pages and articles that are excessively long. While the content might be valuable, many users may not read it in full because the article is not easy to scan.
    • Review content to see if it’s covered in other locations to help decrease the length of articles and pages.
  • For half-width content or content that occupies a smaller width area, such as verbiage placed next to an action card, paragraphs may extend to four to five lines. In a Word document, the content would take up two or three lines only. Published content with six or more lines, even shorter lines, appears too long to the user. The reader may skip the content. 
  • When text on a single page requires scrolling, use clear, concise headings and subheadings to help readers quickly find the content they need.
  • Use bulleted lists when possible and appropriate.
  • Never underline text. Underlining generally indicates a hyperlink on a website. Other underlining may be confusing for the reader.
  • Unless you have prior permission, hyperlinks must direct readers to government websites such as .mil or .gov websites. You can submit link requests for government review and for linking on websites through the Link Vetting Application. Contact your operations manager or CMS team member for assistance with LVA requests.
  • Do not use “please” in content for Military Community and Family Policy digital properties, including websites, applications and social platforms. This includes website articles, collateral material and social posts. For example, do not say: Please visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS when planning your next move. Instead, say: Visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS when planning your next move. “Please” is acceptable, however, in blogs and correspondence, as appropriate. Outreach Operations must approve all other exceptions.