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Web Style Guide

Titles and subtitles

Editorial landmarks like titles and headers are the fundamental human interface device in Web pages, just as they are in any print publication. A consistent approach to titles, headlines, and subheadings in your documents will help your readers navigate through a complex set of Web pages.

Text styles

The text styles we recommend:

Headline style: Bold, capitalize initial letters of words

  • Document titles
  • References to other Web sites
  • Titles of documents mentioned in the text
  • Proper names, product names, trade names

Down style: Bold, capitalize first word only

  • Subheads
  • References to other sections within the site
  • Figure titles
  • Lists

Page titles

Web page titles are designated in the HTML document head section with the TITLE tag. The title is crucial for several reasons. Often the title is the first thing users with slow Internet connections will see; it also becomes the text for any bookmarks the reader makes to your pages. In addition, most search engines regard the page title as the primary descriptor of page content, so a descriptive title increases the chance that a page will appear as the result of a related search query.

The page title should:

  • Incorporate the name of your company, organization, or Web site
  • Form a concise, plainly worded reminder of the page contents

Always consider what your page title will look like in a long list of bookmarks. Will the title remind the reader of what he or she found interesting about your pages?

Text formatting for web documents

Some points about text formatting specific to the Web:

  • Excessive markup. Beware of too much markup in your paragraphs. Too many links or too many styles of typeface will destroy the homogeneous, even "type color" that characterizes good typesetting.
  • Link colors. If you are including links in the body of your text, choose custom link colors that closely match your text color. Reading from the screen is hard enough without struggling with distracting link colors scattered across the page.
  • Use the best tool. Write your text in a good word processing program with spell-checking and search features. Transfer your text to HTML only after it has been proofread.
  • Style sheets in word processors. Don't use the word processor's style sheets to produce "All capitals" or other formatting effects. You will lose those special formats when you convert to plain ASCII text for HTML use.
  • Special characters. Don't use the "smart quotes" feature. Avoid all special characters, such as bullets, ligatures, and typographer's en and em dashes, that are not supported in standard HTML text. Consult a good HTML guidebook (we recommend several in the References) for the listing of special and international characters supported through HTML's extended character formatting.
  • No auto hyphens. Never use the automatic hyphenation feature of your word processor on text destined for the Web. This may add nonstandard "optional hyphen" characters that will not display properly in Web browsers.