Style Guide

Writing for the Web

Writing on the web is very different than writing for print media. Consider the following from our own website statistics, taken from a 30 day sample month:

  • Over 58% of our visitors spend less than 10 seconds on our website
  • Over 71% of our visitors spend less than 1 minute on our website

Keeping this in mind is one of the most important things to consider when trying to write content for a web page. The first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for the user's decision to stay or leave. 

Here is some more information from a 2011 story from Jakob Nielsen highlighting more statistics.

Reading vs. Scanning

Print readers read, web readers scan. Use of Headers to break up long page content highlight what the page is about and brings attention to what the reader needs to know about the page. See the Incoming Students page for a good example.

Conversational Style

Writing in a conversational style helps people achieve their goals. Web readers want information and answers to their questions; it's your job as the writer to determine what the reader wants to know and deliver it effectively. Any content or style that is detrimental to the reader goals is detrimental to your goals.

Lists are good.

Lists are short, to the point, and you can highlight features that draw a visitor's eye. Lists should contain between 3-7 items.

Keywords should be part of headers. Headers should be descriptive of content.

Headers are larger than normal text, and better than bolded text. These should be descriptive and relevant to the goal of your page, and are the first words that a visitor notices when on the page.

Hyperlinks can, and should, be used to shorten your page, but provide further information.

Good use of hyperlinks can reduce the amount of information on main summary pages, and give users a clear path to more content if they desire it. Try to embed your links, instead of calling attention to a link with words like "Click Here". You can't force users to read all your content, but you can craft and organize your content to encourage the user to follow the path that you want.

Keep your content fresh.

Outdated content is embarrassing, and makes you look lazy to your visitors. Users demand relevant, up-to-date content. Technology exists in our Content Management System to plan ahead for deployment of content, or to set email reminders to update some content. Contact me to learn how to use these tools.

A small amount of formatting can help, too much formatting can hinder.

Formatting should be consistent, with use of h1, h2, h3, and bold HTML tags. See the content tab for more guidance.

Headers

Headers are HTML tags that lead for sections of text on a page.  Header 1 tags inherit from the Navigation Title, so when writing, use Header 2 and Header 3 tags for different sections and subsections of your page.  You can highlight text and use the dropdown box (default selection is "Normal") to attach headers to pages.

Lists

You should use the ordered (numbered) list and un-ordered list buttons for formatting lists.

Images

Alignment

Images that appear in content typically are aligned to the right, with a 5 pixel margin on the top and 15 pixel margins on the bottom and left.  You can use the formatting tools in the editor (right-click the image, select Properties).

Sizes

Default widths for images that appear in content is 280 pixels. Profile images are 239 x 168 pixels. Header images are 960 x 140 pixels.

Images should be sized outside of our CMS within photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop and "Saved for web and devices", which reduces the weight of the page making it load faster. If you need help with these actions, please contact me.

The following is information about best practices to follow when coming up with an email communication strategy.  The concepts in this pdf should inform and drive the content and methodology for any regular communication sent out to an audience group.

e-mail Communication Best Practices

Graphic Identity Standards

A set of graphic identity standards have been established to represent Saint Michael's College in both print and online formats. Consistent use of these elements serves to strengthen the visual component of the Saint Michael's brand.

The logos and marks used in the graphic identity system manual are the only authorized logos to be used to represent Saint Michael's College, and may be used at the College's discretion for related publishing, marketing, promotional and retail purposes.

Requests to use athletic department logos, should be directed to Chris Kenny, Associate Director of Athletics, at 802.654.2296 or ckenny@smcvt.edu.

Photography

Our office maintains an extensive current photo database that is not available online. Please contact ccrawford@smcvt.edu with your photo inquiries.

For archive photo requests, please contact escott@smcvt.edu.

To promote consistency in its communications, please use the following Saint Michael's College style guide, which draws from both the AP Style Guide and Chicago Manual of Style, with certain exceptions that are particular to Saint Michael's.

academic degrees - Capitalize abbreviations for degrees and professional designations, placing them only after proper names. Do not use periods to separate them, e.g., Michael Knight, PhD. Lowercase when degrees are spelled out, e.g., bachelor of arts in history.

academic titles - Refer to professors and administrators by full name, title and department (not capitalized, unless a proper noun), e.g., Marie Knight, professor of biology; Marcus Aurelius, associate professor of English; John J. Neuhauser, president. Only capitalize titles and affiliations when preceding a name, e.g., Professor Francis Drake, Associate Director Marvin Perkins. The title "Dr." is used only when referring to a medical doctor.

class years - Saint Michael's has a gender-neutral language policy. Therefore, do not write "freshman(men), upperclassman(men)" and instead use first-year student(s), sophomore(s), junior(s), senior(s), or upper-level student(s) (not upper-class) when referring to juniors or seniors. Numerically present class years with apostrophe preceding last two digits of year and no comma between last name and class year, e.g., Mike Knight '08. In cases of graduates from previous centuries, give full year, e.g., Michael D. Knight 1908. Uppercase "C" in "Class of" construction, e.g., Michael D. Knight, Class of 1908.

academic years - lowercase first-year, sophomore, junior, senior, e.g., senior John Doe, or John Doe '08. Do not use the word "freshman." Do not use the word "upper-class" to signify and upper-level (junior, senior) student. Use "upper-level" instead.

upper-level student(s) - indicating junior or senior, with hyphen. Not upperclassman/men, nor upperclass students

states - On digital content, use the two letter capitalized postal code, e.g., VT, MA, NJ, NH.

a.m./p.m. - lowercase, periods between letters, e.g., 10 a.m. or 10:00 a.m.; noon or midnight, not 12 p.m. or 12 a.m. In time spans, use en (-) dashes and no spaces between times, e.g., 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

dates - always spell out months e.g., November; December 2013. Do not use ordinals in dates, e.g., November 7, not November 7th. For date spans, use en (-) dash with no spaces between dates, e.g., February 14-15.

ordinals - spell out first through ninth, use numerals for 10th and above. Do not use ordinals in dates, e.g., Nov. 10, not Nov. 10th.

numerals - spell out numerals one through nine, use numerals for 10 and above

alumna - singular female graduate.

alumnae - plural female graduates.

alumni - plural male graduates, or male and female graduates collectively.

alumnus - singular male graduate.

Alum - do not use

team names - Capitalize names like Women's Basketball team. Teams that are one gender need not indicate men's or women's, e.g., Volleyball team, Field Hockey.

seasons - lowercase spring, summer, winter, fall.

ellipsis - indicates deletion of one or more words to condense text, constructed with three periods and one space on either … side. If words preceding an ellipsis make a complete sentence, place a period at the end of the complete sentence, followed by a space, followed by three periods. …

em dash - a long dash that separates clauses within a sentence — one space on either side. Use two en dashes – to make an em dash --. In HTML, you can use the HTML entity —.

en dash - a medium dash used to indicate duration, with no spaces on either side, e.g., 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; 12-18 months ago old. Also used in phone numbers, no spaces on either side, e.g., (508) 793–2300. (To access in Word tool bar, go to Insert, select Symbols, select Special Characters.) In HTML, you can use the HTML entity –.

publication names - italicize names of newspapers, magazines, plays, and news journals.

building names - capitalize the names of the college's buildings, e.g., Jeanmarie Hall, Alliot Student Center, Hoehl Welcome Center.

ALANA - abbreviation for African-American, Latin American, Asian-American, Native American.

baccalaureate - lowercase "b"

Baccalaureate Mass - uppercase "B" and "M"

Board of Trustees - uppercase formal name, but lowercase "the board."

Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel - not St. Michael's Chapel

coed, coeducational - no hyphen

Commencement - uppercase

department names -  Uppercase formal department names, e.g., Department of Mass Communication, Journalism and Digital Arts. Lowercase informal department names, e.g., art department, except when it includes proper nouns, e.g., English department.

dollars - for dollar figures equal to or greater than one million dollars, present as, e.g., $1 million; $10 billion. For dollar figures less than $1 million present as, e.g., $900,000; $250; $9.99; $4. Do not follow the numerals with the word "dollars."

e-mail - lowercase, hyphen

extracurricular - no hyphen. Extracurricular implies activities which are additional with no particular relationship to the curriculum, while cocurricular implies activities which are complementary and go hand-in-hand with the curriculum.

Father/Fr. - on second reference, use abbreviated Fr. preceding last name, e.g., Fr. Doherty. On first reference, use abbreviated Rev. for Reverend preceding full name, e.g., Rev. Michael Cronogue, SSE. Use SSE (Society of St. Edmund) preceded by comma on first, full reference.

GPA - grade point average, no periods.

The Hilltop - informal nickname for campus.

Mass - uppercase "M" for religious service.

nonprofit - no hyphen

office names - uppercase in formal form, e.g., Office of Admission. Lowercase in informal form, e.g., admissions office.

online - lowercase, no hyphen

percent - spell out when used in body text, e.g., 10 percent. Don't spell out numerals, even when less than 10 percent, e.g., 8 percent. Use decimals, not fractions, e.g. 8.5 percent. Use only numerals and % symbol within tables and graphs.

pre-pharmacy - hyphen

Reverend - abbreviate when preceding a name, e.g., Rev. Michael C. Cronogue, SSE. Subsequent references use abbreviated Fr. Cronogue (no SSE).

e the acronym CREC at all to reference the McFarland Center.

Society of St. Edmund - abbreviated as SSE

telephone numbers/extensions - area codes separated by periods 802.654.3000;  Extensions:, x2556

URLs - lowercase website addresses. Unless necessary, no http:// preceding.

Web, website - capital "W" for Web (shorthand for World Wide Web), e.g., the Web, Web page. However, website, webcam, webcast, webmaster are one word, lower case "w"

internet - lowercase "i"

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