Correct Internet language and usage
Professionalism goes a long way to make your site appealing to the average reader. One rule to keep in mind when writing for the web is that it is another form of communication. Write with the same amount of professionalism on the Internet as you would writing for paper.
- Do not use all capitals unless for an acronym. Caps appear as shouting on the Internet. You do not want to appear to be yelling at your readers. Use bold or italics to emphasize words or phrases.
- Do not use bold, italics, underline, strikethrough, or heading text for more than a paragraph at most, less in the case of strikethrough and heading text. These are meant for emphasis, so use them only on important words or phrases. As well, underlining text immediately causes the user to think the text is a link. If they click on this text and nothing happens, it will appear that there is something wrong with your page.
- Naming your files correctly is important for making your site more accessible. Use only a-z, 0-9, _, and – in your file names. Do not use capital letters or spaces. Keep the name short and simple. Keep in mind that a file name needs to be intuitive regarding the content. A file name like “aerdxef-1.php” has no meaning. If possible relate it to the page’s title in some way.
- Just because you are on the Internet does not mean you can ignore the rules of grammar and punctuation. Memorial's site is an academic website, and it should look that way. Do not forget periods, commas, correct spelling, etc. If you are using Site Builder, use the spell-check function in the WYSIWYG editor to check your pages. If you are using another system or just HTML, check your spelling and grammar beforehand in a text editor.
- Bullet points do not need periods unless the point is a complete sentence or more than one sentence long, in which case every sentence in the point should have a period.
- Don't use outmoded words and phrases (i.e. "surf the web"). It's overused and not appropriate. Surfing the web is a term used to indicate browsing without purpose or direction. People will not simply "surf" onto your page. They came there for a reason. If necessary, use the word "browse", which implies a more focused search for information.
- People came to your site for a reason. What is it? Make sure they can find it quickly and without hassle. The average user will only look at your page for around 5 seconds. If after that amount of time they can't find what they're looking for, or see a potential way of finding it, they will give up and move on.
- Text is necessary, but don't overdo it. Your readers will most likely be looking for specific information, be it one fact or a whole document, it doesn't matter. Make sure they can identify whatever it is they're looking for quickly.
Pages with over three paragraphs on them will be skimmed by the user, so highlight important text and break things up into separate, smaller pages. Use headings to compartmentalize information into an easily navigated structure.
- Be consistent. This goes for everything from menu structure to text structure. If your pages all have headings using the
tag, then don't switch to bold text for no reason. This will confuse the reader.
- Do not use emoticons or smilies.
- Avoid using exclamation points, especially in excess. This creates an informal feel. If you want to create this feel, do so with only one exclamation point. This is much like the overuse of bold or italics. More than one is just manic.
- Do not use the words "Click here" or any variation thereof. Proper link usage entails placing the link on the subject of the sentence. If a sentence isn't being used, simply use the title of the webpage. ex:
- You should check out Memorial's webpage - Click here. Wrong
- Click here to find out more. Wrong
- Visit Memorial's webpage. Wrong
- Visit Memorial's webpage. Right
Readers don't like surprises, especially when they are looking for information. This can lead to frustration, and the reader may just give up. "Click Here" does not imply the content of they page you are pointing them to, simply that they are going "somewhere", whereas linking the subject or page title implies that is where the reader is going.
- Use sentences. Not everything is a point in a list of information. You can convey information without doing it in point-form. A paragraph should not be a list of points without the bullets. It should have a beginning, middle and end, as well as a main point or thesis sentence. This is basic English form, and should not be ignored simply because you are using the internet.
- Avoid using the phrase "Welcome to our web page". Instead, try Welcome to the Department of ______. The reader knows they are on your webpage. Offer them a little information about your faculty or department. The reader came to the site to get information, not have a conversation. Welcome in the page header or title is acceptable though.
- Headings shouldn't use periods. They should not be an entire sentence, but instead, should be a word of phrase that describes the content to follow. Even if it ends up being a sentance, do not put a period at the end.
- Don't use the phrases "Coming soon" or "Under construction". The reader is there to see what you have there now, not what you intend to put on the site. If it's not done yet, don't put it up. "Coming soon" is often used to tell people that you intend to add a feature in the future and get people interested. More often it simply irritates the reader, because that feature isn't there now. Wait until something is done, and then present it to your readers.
- Don’t link or underline periods. If part of a sentence is a link, link only the words, punctuation and spacing between the words.
- Capitalize proper names. Internet is a proper name and needs to be capitalized.