How do we write in ways that best represent the bold, compassionate, reverent, and inclusive faith we share? Whether creating a website, brochure, or newsletter, the words we choose send a signal about who we are, what we do, and why it matters. Words have the power to turn website visitors into Unitarian Universalists.
Know your audience.
What hopes, dreams, identities, concerns, and situations would draw your audience to read about your congregation/group? Who are the spiritually-progressive-yet-religiously-unaffiliated people in your community? People have a need to seek meaning in their lives and most believe in God or a higher power, but many still have a negative view of “organized religion.” How do we speak to them with language they can hear? The sample language we’ve developed for Our Beliefs and About Unitarian Universalism offers examples.
Show, don’t tell.
Who are we? What do we do? Why does it matter? Show who your group is, what people experience, and why it’s relevant to their lives. This is why the Testimonials feature is built into the theme. Instead of a lesson in history or theology, talk about the people in your congregation – the smiling faces, the warm hugs or held hands, the fellowship and fun. Share the words from worship that helped both the staunch atheist to ardent pagan experience hope and courage. Focus on what you do rather than describing who you are.
Make it easy to take action.
We are a religion of “deeds not creeds.” What are the deeds that define us? What do UUs do in their everyday lives to live their faith? And what are you asking the reader to do? Be clear. What’s your ask? Use action words: “come” “learn,” or “share.”
Write with clear words and evocative images.
Keep it clear, brief, and imagistic. Figure out what your audience needs to know and organize your pages with their needs and experience at the center. Recognize that any page of your website could be the reader’s entry point to Unitarian Universalism, and give them a taste of who we are and what it feels like to be among us. Try not to use insider language (like “liturgy” or “coffee hour”) and always define acronyms.
Write for scanning eyes.
People don’t read web pages like books – they scan them in an F-pattern, so write for that kind of reading. This means:
- Important points first.
- Clear headers and subheaders
- Bulleted lists
- Intentional use of link text (because when people scan, they notice link text)
- Not link or click here
- Instead link with words you want to emphasize.
- Save your long-form prose for blogs and sermons.
Write in an accessible manner.
- See the website accessibility page on UUA.org for great pointers.
You can borrow from UUA.org, with some restrictions.
In general, congregations are free to copy, adapt, and use UUA.org website text on their own sites. If a specific author is listed for content you find on UUA.org, such as a prayer on WorshipWeb, you must seek the permission of the author in order to reprint it on your website (unless it is in the Public Domain). If you wish to use readings or lyrics from Singing the Living Tradition, Singing the Journey, Las Voces del Camino, and other UUA- or Skinner House-published texts, please consult Copyright Permissions for UUA Publications on UUA.org.
Resources to learn more.
- Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works
- 2015 GA Workshop #UUsGetSocial: Make Your Website Awesome and Make it Yours
- 2014 GA Workshop #UUsGetSocial: Updating Your Web Presence: Tools and Tips