Style Guide: Web Supplement

Use these guidelines in addition to the main style guide when writing content for the web.

Numerals

Use numerals whenever they contribute to clarity and brevity. For example: "35 visitors" is easier to read than "thirty-five visitors" but "10 million" is easier to read than "10,000,000."

Serial commas

In a series of three or more, place a comma before the and that precedes the final item in the series. For example: apples, oranges, and bananas.

Bulleted Lists

Bulleted lists distill a lot of information in a compact, easy-to-read format.

Always introduce a bulleted list with a colon. Follow these guidelines when forming your list to ensure the items are parallel:

  • Do not mix and match incomplete and complete sentences.
  • Do not use punctuation for incomplete sentences.
  • Make the voice of the sentences (third or second person) the same.

The list above shows three complete sentences with punctuation. In the example below, punctuation is not used.  Start each phrase with the same part of speech, like this:

We view the following as unacceptable:

  • Cheating on a test
  • Eating in class
  • Talking on your cell phone

Headings

Short, interesting headings help users scan information and find what they need. Allowed and encouraged practices when writing headings include using:

  • Ampersands - e.g., "Faculty & Staff" (though do not use them within the body of text)
  • Questions - e.g., "How Do I Apply?"
  • Action verbs - e.g., "Calculate Your Academic Scholarship"
  • Capitalization of initial words - i.e., "How Do I Apply?" not "How do I apply?"

When possible, use concrete, specific labels instead of vague or general terms. For example:

Vague Specific
Features Successful Students
Resources In-Depth Study Materials
Related Links Research Academic Publications

 

Formatting for Emphasis 

Bold words, don't underline, for emphasis; underlines on the web signify links. Use italics only for the titles of books, plays, movies, newspapers, exhibitions, names of established television and radio shows, names of legal cases, and names of magazines.

Formatting for Consistency of Text Display

Spacing
Use single, not double, spacing after a period.

Dashes
Use an en-dash ( - ) (hyphen) with a single space on either side of it for a dash.

Common Spellings

email

web

website or websites

web pages

Internet

Intranet

homepage

the World Wide Web

Elements of Voice

Writing on the web works best when direct and personal:

  • Write in the second person, not the third, where possible - speak directly to your reader, as in "You are welcome" vs. "Students are welcome"
  • Use contractions - they sound more natural and personal
  • Use the active voice, not the passive voice - avoid the "to be" verbs
  • Avoid overwriting; try simple words - e.g., "use" not "utilize"