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Admissions Page at Lake Forest
This style is used for the opening paragraph on all pages of the Lake Forest site. It should summarize what the page’s content is all about, in straightforward and friendly language. Opening paragraphs shouldn’t be more than a couple of sentences long.
The following represent some of our general recommendations for higher education writing in particular:
1. Be concise.
Keep word counts low, especially on top-level pages that should be telling the story rather than conveying lots of detailed information. Most basic informational pages ought to be no longer than 400-500 words.
Some pages deeper in the site may need to convey lots of detailed information, such as policies and procedures related to admissions or financial aid. But even pages like these should not exceed 800-900 words, with very few exceptions. If a page’s content cannot be kept under this limit, it might be a good candidate for becoming a downloadable, printable PDF document.
2. Use an opening paragraph to summarize page content.
Flipping through the site, any visitor should be able to quickly absorb the most important information on the page to determine whether she needs to take the time to read the entire page.
When an entire site is constructed with concise, thoughtful opening paragraphs, a visitor can browse the site quickly and get a well-rounded accurate sense of the whole institution’s character. This helps increase visitor interest and attachment.
3. Be conversational, but not too clever.
The use of contractions (it’s, we’re, you’ll, etc.) is encouraged. Some of the rules that are applied to formal writing don’t apply as strictly to Web writing. For example, if the natural rhythm of a sentence is best suited by ending it with a preposition, so be it.
One of the best ways to check the style of Web writing is to read it to yourself out loud. If it sounds natural, it’s likely to be good.
4. Use bulleted lists to quickly convey information, but don’t overuse them - as this detracts from their effectiveness.
In general, on most basic content pages of a Web site, there shouldn’t be more than one or two bulleted or numbered lists. If you have a page that is burdened with lots of lists, you may want to consider alternative ways of presenting that content.
5. Make use of meaningful subheadings to guide a reader through the page content.
Along with short paragraphs, breaking up a page with subheadings allows a Web reader to quickly determine what information is most important for her needs. This is a good general principle for all content pages of a site; for long, policies-and-procedures-type pages, it’s absolutely essential.