Writing for the Web

It is important that we keep our new sites as consistent as possible to help improve the user experience.

When writing for the web, please refer to the items listed below and follow UBC’s brand guidelines.


When creating content, remember to write to and for your audience. Include content that will benefit your reader and help them accomplish their goals while shortening the distance between you and your reader through inclusive language.

By speaking directly to our students — by using the pronoun ‘you’ — we remove barriers and promote inclusivity. It shows we care and puts the focus on our audience and how we can support them in reaching their greatest potential.

Tip: If speaking directly to your audience in marketing communications, ‘you’ is warmer and more engaging than writing in the third person.


Understanding how UBC’s personality influences our communication efforts increases the potential of the relationships we can have with our desired audiences. Our voice and tone should humanize our brand and inspire empathy, engagement, and dialogue.

UBC’s personality traits:

  • Innovative
  • Bold
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Open
  • International
  • Sustainable

Tip: Use an active and personal voice rather than a passive voice to keep content concise and easy to comprehend.


Write concisely. Short sentences and paragraphs improve the scannability of the page for all users (paragraphs should be roughly three sentences long).

Be direct and specific by using simple language, avoiding jargon, and removing words that provide no additional value to make your site easy to comprehend by any user.


In the first reference, spell out “University of British Columbia”, “the Department of Psychology” and “School of Public Policy and Global Affairs”. In following references, “UBC”, “UBC Psychology” and “SPPGA” is acceptable.

Tip: To avoid confusion when referring to the people within a faculty, use ‘faculty members’ rather than the overarching ‘faculty’.


In public and internal communications, UBC favours the more modern, informal, and accessible trend to eliminate the periods and otherwise unnecessary punctuation as per the Canadian Press Stylebook: Bachelor of Arts, BA; Doctor of Philosophy, PhD.


In recent years, there is a growing trend to move away from more formal styles heavy in capitalization and punctuation, and towards greater informality and inclusiveness involving less capitalization and ‘looser’ punctuation.

UBC favours the ‘lowercase style’ as it improves readability and increases the prominence of the words that do warrant capitalization. In no way does the use of lowercase reduce the importance nor credibility of a department or an individual’s position or reputation.

Rather than weigh the writing down with unnecessary and excessive capitalization (which quickly wearies the reader’s eye and attention), the adept use of white space, em-dashes, typestyle and typeface can — and will — achieve a more modern, lighter style that works well across print and digital mediums.

Capitalize the unit:
UBC Psychology
Department of Psychology

Do not capitalize programs:
psychology program
BA in psychology
major program
honours program
minor in psychology

Clear calls to action

To enhance the user experience on your website, it’s essential to avoid the excessive use of hyperlinks within a paragraph. Instead, consider incorporating a single, clear call to action in the form of a button or card module.

This approach ensures that visitors don’t constantly navigate away from your site by clicking on numerous hyperlinks, which can be distracting and disorienting. A button with a clear purpose streamlines the user journey and encourages visitors to take the desired action, resulting in a more focused and engaging online experience.

FAQ page alternatives

When designing websites, the primary objective is to create an environment where users can effortlessly find the information they seek. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages have long been considered a conventional solution to address user inquiries, however, they can actually hinder the user experience.

Instead of having one page that includes a long list of varying topics, we’ve designed a standard navigation for Arts CMS based on top user goals and journeys to help them find these answers naturally and quickly.

FAQ pages run the risk of duplicated and contradictory content on your site, thus confusing your users. These pages also increase the cognitive load for users through forcing them to read through and decipher every option to find their answer and reach their goal.

Therefore, we encourage you to break apart your FAQ pages and instead group similar content together where users would naturally and logically find that information, while following web best practices such as using proper headings, short sentences, and clear calls to action, to help improve the user experience.

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