Before you begin
Who is your audience?
Decide who your page is for and write specifically for them. Please do not say that your page is for "everyone"—that's too vague. Particular pages are going to be important or appeal to particular audiences. Some of the audiences we've identified for our website include:
- Church members
- Office bearers
- Young people
- Non-church members (curious members of the public)
- Property buyers
What is the purpose of this page?
Is this page fulfilling a known need for someone outside of our church offices? Remember, we are not a history vault—we must live in the here and now.
Writing your copy
Remember that, no matter who your audience is, they want to read interesting, well-written content. In addition, all the content on the site needs to be accessible, which means it should be as clear and concise as possible.
You only have a few seconds to grab someone's attention, so front-load your content. Make sure the most important ideas (the purpose for your page) are right at the start. Do you want volunteers? Are you describing a fund? What does that fund do? Don't hide this information.
Avoid using overly long words or jargon. Try to use the same sorts of words you'd use in everyday conversation with friends. For example, instead of saying "We resource" say "We offer".
Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Sentences should have 25 words, maximum, with 15-20 words being closer to ideal. Paragraphs should only be 3-4 sentences long, maximum. If you're ever in doubt about the readability of your copy, have someone outside your department look at it. Or send it to the web team and we'll help you.
People tend to scan web pages, so break things up to keep their interest. Use headers to guide people to the parts of the page that might be most useful to them. Make sure the headers (and the page name/headline) are descriptive and reflect the content. Use images, if you have them, to make it more visually interesting. Use bulleted lists when you can and keep the list items short (one sentence is best, two at a push, but best not to make a habit of this).
Consider your tone. If your page is aimed at young people or church members, a friendly, more conversational tone would be appropriate and engaging. If your page is for ministers or deals with important matters such as legal obligations, a more serious tone may be called for.
Use gender-inclusive language, where appropriate. If you're talking about people in general, then try to use "they" or "them" instead of "man" or
"woman" etc. Unless, of course, you're talking specifically about a man, or a woman, or a group that consists solely of one gender. Avoid making general references to elders, ministers, etc in the masculine if their gender is unknown.
Avoid passive voice. For example, instead of "the prayer was said by the minister," use "the minister said the prayer". It helps keep your writing punchy, and more interesting.
Use descriptive language in link text to communicate what will happen when people click it. Do not make a link "click here". Instead, a link should read "To learn more, visit the Church of Scotland website."
All content must be:
- Signed off by the relevant head of department (or assigned content approver) prior to being sent to the web editor for editorial review.
The web editor must receive proof of approval for new content updates.
Proof of approval should be in written form – a simple email stating "approved" with the appropriate email signature will be sufficient.
Proof of approval signifies that the content has been proofread and checked for both accuracy of information and readability.
Details of the content author should also be included for reference. We will revert to this person as first point of contact for any queries relating to the content, including future content reviews.
- Submitted to the web editor in a finalised state (‘details to follow' is not acceptable)
Always run a spell-check on your work and have someone else review it for grammar, ease of reading/use of language, and brevity. As a rule of thumb all content should be written in plain language that can be understood by an average reader.
- Compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation
For example, individuals cannot be identified on the website without their consent (this includes use of a personal email addresses/phone numbers and use of photo captions).
- Periodically reviewed by the relevant department
Each department should review their website content every 3-6 months – checking for inaccuracies and out-of-date information. This review should be carried out proactively and any changes should be fed back to the web editor who will remove or alter content as appropriate.
Any content that does not adhere to appropriate web standards will be returned to the author for further editing. The Communications team will be happy to work with individuals to ensure content is designed to add value to the website.