Web Content Style Guide

This guide contains common style issues and spellings. If your question is not answered here, see The Associated Press Stylebook.



  • For plurals, use an apostrophe only to prevent confusion: CPAs, 1980s, Ph.D.s, A's and B's, the Joneses.
  • For possessives, use 's after nouns ending in s, unless the next word begins with s: the hostess's invitation; the hostess' seat. But use ' alone for proper names ending in s: Dickens' novels.


  • Treat all items within a bulleted list consistently in terms of capitalization, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.
  • Treat all bulleted lists consistently within a document.
  • Don't use periods after each item in a list if the items are not complete sentences. For instance:
    The pantry contains the following:
    • apples
    • bananas
    • oranges
  • When a bullet point contains a complete sentence, use a period after each bullet in the list and capitalize each item.


  • Uppercase is used only when the title is directly before the name: President John Jones, but John Jones, associate vice president of planning.
  • Uppercase all titles when used in an address or headline.
  • Generally, lower-case references to proper names when not used in full: the program, the college, EXCEPT when referring to your particular institution: the College, the Foundation, etc.
  • Capitalize Bachelor of Science, but not bachelor's degree.
  • Capitalize Department of Music, but not music department.
  • In the case of a hyphenated compound word, use uppercase for both words if the second is a noun or adjective or has equal balance with the first word.


  • Use a comma before the last item in a series: a, b, and c.
  • Use it to set off nonessential clauses and phrases.
  • After a city name, use it to set off names of states, counties, and countries.
  • Use it in numbers higher than 999: 1,000,000.

em dash (—)

Use an em dash to indicate emphasis or explanation, to define a complementary element, or to denote a sudden break in thought. Don't put spaces around it. For example: The influence of three impressionists—Monet, Sisley, and Degas—can clearly be seen in his development as a painter. In Cascade, the em dash can be found under Symbols on the text edtor.

en dash (–)

Use an en dash to connect continuing or inclusive dates, times, or reference numbers. Don't put spaces around it. In Cascade, the en dash can be found under Symbols on the text edtor.

  • 10 a.m.–7:30 p.m.
  • May–June 1967
  • 1968–72


  • Phrases are hyphenated when used before a noun, but not after—unless the hyphen is needed to prevent confusion:
       •  A well-known man
       •  He was well known.
       •  A fuel-efficient furnace
       •  The furnace is fuel efficient.
  • A word ending in -ly followed by a participle or adjective is always open:
       •  Poorly attired man
       •  Overbearingly arrogant person


  • Put the period outside the parentheses if they don't contain a full sentence (like this).
  • (Put the period inside the parentheses if they contain a full sentence, like this one.)

quotation marks

  • Use straight quotation marks.
  • Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks.
  • The dash, semicolon, question mark, and exclamation point go inside quotation marks when they only apply to the quoted matter. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence: Did you know that she said, "Let them eat cake"?


  • Use one space, not two, between sentences and after a colon.
  • Insert one line space before and after a bulleted list.
  • Don't insert the line spaces before or after a bulleted list within a bulleted list.


Spell the terms below in the following manner:

  • College of Arts and Science
  • College of Creative Arts
  • College of Education, Health and Society
  • College of Engineering and Computing
  • College of Liberal Arts and Applied Science
  • Farmer School of Business
  • Office of Admission
  • classwork
  • class years
  • coursework
  • ecommerce
  • email
  • FAQs
  • hotlink
  • hyperlink (noun and verb)
  • HTML
  • interactivity
  • Internet
  • intranet
  • listserv
  • login (noun)
  • log in (verb)
  • online
  • tagline
  • timeframe
  • timeline
  • URL / URLs
  • usability
  • viewbook
  • web
  • website
  • webmaster



When citing facts, write numbers as digits, not letters (23, not twenty-three).

state names

Use AP Stylebook abbreviations for state names when following city name: The Selma, Ala., group saw the governor. Only use the two-letter postal abbreviations if the zip code is included.

telephone numbers

Use the fully hyphenated style: 800-444-2121


"Which" follows a comma. "That" doesn’t: The report that Marshall had tried to suppress was greeted with hilarity. The report, which Marshall had tried to suppress, was greeted with hilarity.

PDF references

  • Admission_Application.pdf (34 KB)
    This contains the actual file name.
  • Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes (PDF)
    This link merely describes the document; it does not use the actual file name.


Note: This style guide is a "living" document," and as such, will undergo continuous modification and expansion as needed.

-- Updated August 2016