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Formatting

See also: Punctuation

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Bulleted lists

  • Items in bulleted lists should have parallel grammar structure.
  • Use the same type of list throughout an article or publication.
  • Items in a list can be complete sentences or they can be just a few words, with or without punctuation, but do not mix styles.
  • Use ordered (numbered) lists when the order of items is important, such as directions or steps to complete a task.
  • Use unordered lists (no numbers) when items don’t have to be in a specific order.
  • Use list styles in your word processor and web content management system or appropriate HTML markup to ensure the content is properly tagged for screen reader use.

Examples:

If you drive north, prepare for the trip.

  • Map out your route.
  • Install your snow tires.
  • Pack your woollies.

Trip requirements are as follows:

  • a good map
  • snow tires
  • woollies
 

Another type of list is constructed as a complete sentence.

If you plan to drive north, you should

  • bring a good map,
  • install snow tires, and
  • pack your woollies.

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Italics

  • Use italics for non-English words, unless they have become part of the language.
  • For general publications, do not italicize scientific names.
    • Examples: à la carte, a priori, ad hoc, bistro, bona fides, carte blanche, communiqué, de facto, E. coli, et al., ex officio, façade, gratis, habeas corpus, ibid., non sequitur, per se, résumé; schadenfreude, sangerfest. In Paris, we stayed at a little pension.
  • Avoid using italics for decoration or emphasis.
  • Use italics for the titles of plays, films, books, short stories, poems, newspapers, magazines, dance works, records, works of music, videos, TV and radio shows, and conferences.

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Headings and subheadings

  • Headings and subheadings provide a way for users to preview your content.
  • Create headings to provide an outline of your content and answer your users’ top questions. Avoid self-serving headings.
    • Examples: "Steps to hiring a co-op student", "Top funding opportunities”
  • A good rule of thumb is to ask "does this heading make sense out of context?
  • Keep headings short and direct, and use your audience's keywords if possible.
  • Use heading styles provided in your word processor and web content management system, and use them in order. Heading 3 should nest under heading 2 — don’t skip ahead to heading 4.

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Link text (anchor text)

  • Create links that make the destination clear or represent the action you want a user to take.
  • If the link is a file to download, indicate the file type in the link text. If the file is large, users also appreciate knowing the size.
  • If the link opens up an email, use the contact’s email address rather than their name. (Use the name as link text when directing users to a profile or contact card)
  • When linking to social media, use the profile name or handle as the link text.
  • Avoid using a web address (URL) as link text in digital documents and on web pages.
  • Avoid ambiguous link text such as "click here" and "read more".
  • Punctuation for inline links comes after the link (it is not part of the link text). 
  • In digital documents and web pages, avoid using the web address as the link text. Instead, use link text that represents the destination.

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Web addresses (URLs) in print

  • In print, use the following form for most web addresses: uwaterloo.ca. Most browsers automatically add http:// or https:// to web addresses, and this form promotes readability. Unless the URL will not work without the "www.", remove it from the URL.
  • Long URLs should be avoided since readers are not likely to type them in. WCMS site managers are able to created short cuts (called redirects in the WCMS) if a URL is needed for a print piece.

    • For example, uwaterloo.ca/future-students/aif points to uwaterloo.ca/future-students/admissions/admission-information-form

  • If the URL comes at the end of a sentence, include end punctuation.

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Email addresses

  • Do not use upper case in email addresses.
  • If the address appears at the end of a sentence, include end punctuation. No extra space is necessary between the address and the end punctuation.
  • When including a link in a digital document or web page, hyperlink the email address rather than the person’s name.

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Alternative text (alt text)

  • Images used in digital documents and web pages require alt text that conveys the function or purpose of that image to someone using a screen reader.
  • Alt text should be concise. It should complement rather than repeat surrounding content and captions
    • Example: An image whose purpose is to identify Joe Smith can have an alt text of "Joe Smith".
    • The text of a call to action button can be used in the alt text.
  • Avoid including unnecessary details, such as clothing, background or facial expression.
  • Don’t use "photo of" or "picture of" at the start of the alt text, unless it’s necessary to indicate the medium of the image.
  • Larger infographics, charts and tables may need a longer description or HTML version of the content.

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Captions

  • Captions can be used with images and tables to offer explanation.
  • Create captions to complement surrounding content and alt text (on images in digital documents and web pages).
  • On websites, use the caption style in the WCMS to ensure proper mark-up for screen readers. Avoid using the caption style to format other content (for instance, a call out).
  • Videos posted to Waterloo websites need to have accurate closed captioning.

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