People read differently on the web than they do on paper.
Our guidance mirrors GOV.UK and is based on research into how people read online and how people use government websites. For further details, see
How to write well for your audience
- Be concise
- make content brief and to the point
- Meet user needs
- publish only what customers need to know to complete their task
- Know your audience
- their search terms, questions and how they read a page
- Don't use FAQs
- answer questions in your content.
- Include keywords and meta-description in your content to boost search rankings.
- Use active voice, not passive
- this will help you write with concise and clear language
- Break up text into subject areas with headings and sub-headings
- Put the most important information first
- Good content is quick and easy to read
- use simple words that are easy to understand
Use the index links below to jump to information further down this page:
- Avoid creating unnecessary new pages
- Writing for your audience
- Writing for the web
- Creating and adding documents
- Shortcut URLs
- Contact Web and Digital Services
1. Avoid creating unnecessary new pages
- Less is more. Too much information can distract from finding what's important.
- If the information is not Surrey County Council specific, link out to the information on another reputable website.
- Avoid duplication. Check if the information already exists on our website or an external one.
- Condense information to fit on one web page with headings for each new subject area.
2. Writing for your audience
- Address a question or need
- Write a clear page title and description, use keywords and fill in metadata
- Write easy-to-understand content
- Follow GOV.UK's guidance and write for 9 years of age
- Keep information up-to-date
Make sure you also:
- write accessible web content so all residents can access it
- leave out the jargon
- answer common questions in the body text, not in FAQ pages
- use keywords in page titles and in content to improve search results
- add keywords and a description to the metadata to boost internal and external (Google) search results.
3. Writing for the web
- Write from the customer's perspective using active sentences and personal pronouns (I, we, you).
- Write pages in the 'inverted pyramid/front loading style' ie start the page with the most important information.
- Write in Plain English to make sure your page can be understood by all of our customers.
- Avoid jargon and complicated words so that all residents understand the information.
- Explain acronyms with words when you use them, eg Surrey County Council (SCC).
- Write clear sentences of 15 to 20 words.
- Write short paragraphs of three to four sentences.
- Use meaningful headings that customers can scan quickly for context.
- Follow our house style (available on SCC Info or from our Communications team).
- Make headings and sub headings short and meaningful.
4. Creating and adding documents
- Documents should be converted to PDF and meet PDF standards unless the PDF content can be a web page.
- Don't add documents owned by other organisations. Create an external link to the website where they are located.
- The customer will always have the latest version
- There is no risk of copyright infringement
- Prepare your document so that it meets the government's Accessibility regulations.
- Get the final version of your document signed off before publication.
- Add a clear title and description for the document so customers know exactly what they are opening.
5. Shortcut URLs
- Decide if you need a shortcut web address, eg www.surreycc.gov.uk/schoolmeals.
- Make sure the shortcut URL address does not already exist.
- Check with Web and Digital Services that it meets web standards.
- The shortcut URL can only be created when the page it links to has been published.
- Do not publicise the shortcut URL until all of the above is done.
6. Contact Web and Digital Services
Contact Web and Digital Services for guidance on preparing your content for the web, or to discuss plans and requirements.
We follow GOV.UK's style guide, which can be found on their Content design pages.