Office of Digital Innovation Outlines Seven Principles for Writing Digital Content

Published On: October 29, 2021

How can a content team change the way government delivers services to the people of California?

During the DWSN Quarterly Forum held on Oct. 21, the content design team at the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI) tried to answer that question.

To accomplish that goal, the team, led by Senior Content Designer Michael Sullivan, presented seven principles “that everyone can use to write better digital content.” 

The seven principles include:

  1. Focus on user services and needs.
  2. Know your audience and meet them where they are.
  3. Build accessibility in from the start.
  4. Be concise.
  5. Write in plain language.
  6. Write with a conversational and official voice.
  7. Organize content strategically. 

One of the major themes from Sullivan’s presentation includes knowing the audience and reaching out to them in easy-to-understand terms.

“Government content usually asks people to do a lot of work,” Sullivan notes in his presentation. “As public servants, we need to do that for them.” 

That’s no easy process. Knowing your audience means working with researchers, data analysts, and engineers to learn the ins and outs of who is on the receiving end of digital content. 

“Meeting the audience where they are” also means presenting content in an accessible format. Sullivan mentions using web pages over PDFs, writing descriptive hyperlink text, and adding alt text to images. 

Writing should be easy to consume, organized with headings to accommodate those that are “scanning” rather than reading.

“Dense content can discourage people from even attempting to read it,” Sullivan notes in the presentation.

And, of course, brevity is the soul of wit. Sullivan emphasizes that having one thought per sentence, being economical with words, and not duplicating content across a site.

 

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org