There is overlap between the plain English and web writing courses, for 3 main reasons:
- Plain English is a fundamental part of web writing.
- Many ‘web writing’ techniques, such as making content easy to scan, also apply to writing for print.
- It’s 2016—all corporate content is going to end up on an intranet, or network drive, and frequently be accessed on screen.
The table below is not exhaustive, but explains the key differences.
|Topic||Plain English/corporate writing focus||Web writing|
|Plain English||Word choice, including redundancies, verbose phrases, jargon, etc.
|Yes (more in-depth)||Yes|
|Commonly confused words||Yes||No|
|Sentence structure, including active vs passive voice, structuring sentences to avoid ambiguity,
short-term memory and sentence comprehension
|Yes (more detail spent on sentence structures and grammar)||Yes|
|Common grammatical mistakes||Yes||No|
|Page structure, identifying your audience and their primary needs, the curse of knowledge, and how to avoid it, removing unnecessary content||Yes||Yes|
|Scannable content||Bulleted lists; parallel structure;
tables; writing good headings, lists and links; inverted pyramid structure
|Yes (excludes links)||Yes|
|Information architecture||Yes (document focus)||Yes (web focus)|
|Persuasive writing||The difference between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ content, writing to establish trust, cognitive biases and how to use them to influence reader behaviour and inspire action, when to use promotional writing||Yes (focus on promotional or instructional content depending on organisation needs)||(focus on promotional or instructional content depending on organisation needs)|
|Accessibility—writing for people with disability||What you need to do to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, including working with tables, images, audio and video||Yes (document focus)||Yes (web focus, including technical—HTML, etc.)|
|User experience||Writing for different devices (tablet, mobile, etc.)||No||Yes|
|Cognitive ease and positive writing||Yes||Yes|
|Using images to support your content||Maybe (Depending on organisation needs)||Yes|
|Form design: Writing questions, help text and error messages||No||Yes|
|Search engine optimisation||Search behaviour and algorithms, keywords, metadata||No||Yes|
|Technical||Technologies behind web content, building pages in the content management system||No||Optional (General techniques, or organisation specific, by agreement)|
|Writing process||Editing and proofreading techniques (Including overview of house style)||Yes (Organisation to provide style guide, or we can use Commonwealth or Queensland Government style guides)||Yes (Based on Qld Government web style guide)|
|Managing and influencing stakeholders and subject matter experts||Yes||Yes|
|Specific writing styles (e.g. social media, work instructions, media releases, surveys)||Optional (By agreement; organisation to provide examples)||Optional (By agreement; organisation to provide examples)|