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We use I.E. (ie, i.e.) to clarify a sentence but it’s not always well understood. And while terms like eg, ie and etc, are common, they make reading difficult for some.

Also, we have a high number of overseas visitors to our sites – anyone who didn’t grow up speaking English may not be familiar with terms like eg, ie and etc. Even those with high literacy levels can be thrown if they’re reading under stress or are in a hurry – like a lot of people are on the web.

As such, we don’t use I.E.

Instead, try writing sentences to avoid the need to use it. If that isn't possible, use an alternative such as 'meaning' or 'that is'.

This is any sentence that tells you to do something or not to do something – basically, to convey a command, a request, or a forbiddance. They’re brilliant for giving instructions (firstly, turn off the electricity) and giving extra help (be careful not to touch any live wires).

Imperatives are excellent for conveying useful information in an easy to follow format, which is why you’ll find them in nearly all instruction manuals. As such, they’re a vital tool for web copy, as they let your users know quickly and easily what action they need to take to get what they want from your page.

Write like an instruction manual

Don’t be afraid to use simple, to-the-point language. This isn’t us ‘dumbing down’, it’s opening up – it helps your users get what they need from your content, whether that’s information, advice, or instructions on actions they need to take.

Who’s your content addressing? Once you know that, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do they want from your content?
  • What action do they need to perform?

Try answering them as if you’re writing an instruction manual addressed to your audience – this is a great, really simple way to create the basic structure of your page.

 

Also called reported speech – this is a means of expressing the content of statements, questions or other utterances, without quoting them explicitly. For example, He said "I'm joining the panel." is direct speech, whereas He said that he was joining the panel is indirect speech.

More often than not, the tense you need to use will be common sense. There are some general rules however, so if in doubt, use the guidelines below. At its most simple, the tense in which someone speaks often has to be changed in indirect speech to avoid ambiguity. What determines this is the tense used in introducing the indirect speech.

For example, imagine Professor Jordan says, "I am resigning." He uses the present tense. If you introduce this with either the present tense ("He says") or the perfect tense ("He has said"), then you should retain the present tense within the quotation – so, the text can say either Professor Jordan says he’s resigning or Professor Jordan has said he’s resigning.

If you opt for the past tense ("He said"), then you have to "knock back" by one tense from that used in the original. For example, Professor Jordan said he was resigning. By the same rule, if Professor Jordan’s next words are "I saw the Dean on Tuesday", then you can write either Professor Jordan says/has said he saw the Dean on Tuesday or Professor Jordan said he had seen the Dean on Tuesday.

With remarks looking to future events, the word "will" survives into reported speech only if the introduction uses the present or perfect tense. For example, if Professor Jordan continues, "I will leave our university on Saturday" then this can become either Professor Jordan says he’ll leave our university on Saturday or Professor Jordan has said he’ll leave our university on Saturday. But if you use the past tense as an introduction, then "will" becomes "would". For example, Professor Jordan said he would leave our university on Saturday.

Also see ‘Quotation marks’