Microcopy

Small but Mighty 

Microcopy, text that runs from 20 to 200 characters, can be a powerful tool if we use it smartly and strategically. 

It might be all the user reads —  we have seconds to attract and hold someone's interest —  so it must do a lot of heavy lifting.   

Many university home pages are dominated by microcopy, in the way a magazine cover features teaser headlines.  Microcopy draws visitors deeper into our sites. 

Other examples of microcopy include: 

  • Page titles: Choose them carefully. They should accurately describe the page’s content and tell the user what they’ll find. They're also important for SEO (search engine optimization).
  • Headlines: When people scan a page, a headline can let them know they’ve found what they’re seeking. Headlines should also inspire the user to learn more, while conveying the key point you want them to know. 
  • Captions: The first thing someone looks at on a web page is the photo. The second is the caption. A photo without a thoughtfully and strategically written caption is an unfinished message and a lost opportunity. 
  • Calls to action: Content that inspires the user to do something and/or to engage with your site. They should begin with a persuasive verb (apply, discover, explore, learn, etc.). 
  • Teasers: Limit the text to one or two active-voice sentences that encourage people to find out more about the featured topic by clicking on a hyperlink. 
  • Thank-you pages: These messages generally appear when someone has submitted a form. They should include your thanks, a note that the form has been accepted, and an estimate of the time to expect a response. 
  • Block quotes: These components, which can be used as art elements on pages without photos, contain persuasive or illustrative text supporting the page topic. 
  • Topic tags: These descriptive word(s) should be attached to every news story to lead users to related items of interest.
  • Link text: People need to know immediately what they’re getting (“Read a program description in the catalog.” “Learn how to apply.”). Banish the phrases “click here” and “learn more” from your site. They don’t convey information and violate accessibility best practices. 

Usage Guidelines 

  • Be concise, descriptive, and transparent.  
  • Use the words that your audience uses.  
  • Avoid transitive verbs.  
  • Frontload important information.  
  • Personalize. Use “you” and “we.”  
  • Think about context.  
  • Choose clarity over cleverness.  
  • Keep the voice and tone of Mason in mind.