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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.


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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  • 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: 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, points to

  • 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 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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