Writing for Websites

Strong writing that clearly conveys your message is vital to making a website effective. Following basic guidelines will help you craft content that meets your goals.​

Can We Talk? Yes, We Can​​

In any kind of writing, your audience dictates how you write and the message you convey. Mason's primary audience is prospective students.

Many of you might be accustomed to writing for academic journals and publications. You'll need to make some mental adjustments for your site, and follow Mason's content strategy. We're writing in a friendly, conversational manner, speaking naturally as if talking to a friend.

This is not “dumbing down.” It’s a different style of writing, which we're adopting to reach out to a specific audience. Most prospective students won't respond to either sales jargon or high-minded academic speak. If we don't write in a way that speaks to our users, they won't listen to us, no matter how compelling our message is.

This means you need to stay away from academic jargon such as granular, thought leader, intersession, colloquy, etc. Non-academics don’t use such words in day-to-day conversation, and might not know what you mean. Putting words in quote marks doesn’t help; are we telling people they have to look something up?

Be warned: If you let jargon slip into your text, Camp Digital will be forced to unleash the dreaded Matriculating Cohort, which will fill your email box with scolds.

Knowing who you're talking to is the first step; your next move is to provide information that is pertinent to them. Understanding what your audience wants and needs will drive your writing. Someone who gets a clear message is more likely to feel a connection with Mason.

Before you start writing, ask yourself:

  • What's my goal? What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Do I know who my audience is?
  • What do I want members of my audience to know?
  • What do I want members of my audience to do?

If you can answer those questions, you've got a starting point.​​

Marketing, But in a Good Way​​

When some people hear “marketing,” their lips curl in contempt because they think it means:

  • Sleazy: (This used car is a real cream puff.)
  • Spammy: (You’re going to see this message every time you click or swipe.)
  • Exaggerated: (It’s the BEST deal EVER!)

That’s bad-guy marketing. We’re the good guys. We're smart, too. We know that stereotypical "marketing" text means people would think less of us for believing we find this type of writing persuasive.

Effective marketing will present a message that’s easily understandable and targeted to a specific audience. Think of it this way: You’re performing a service because you’re giving readers something they want or need.

We use marketing to persuade people to do something, but we’re doing it in a way that helps them, and we’re using facts to back up our arguments. People only pay attention to things that they find interesting or relevant. We’re answering their questions:

  • How is Mason different?
  • How is Mason better?
  • What can Mason give me that I can’t get somewhere else?
  • What is the advantage of getting a particular degree from Mason?

We can also highlight our brag points, the ways in which we shine:

  • We’re a maverick.
  • We’re a contender.
  • We’re not stuck in the past.

This is the time to separate ourselves from our peers and make our differences into strengths. For example: Get conservatory training in a liberal arts setting when you attend Mason’s School of Dance.

If you focus on the benefits that your unit has to offer, and don’t promise things you can’t deliver, you can be proud of your marketing. It will be the BEST thing EVER!