Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Web Design & Development > Usability

Web Design Reference Guide

Hosted by

Text Harmony and Understanding (and Consistency)

Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

When I first started writing about the Web, I could never remember if words like Internet and Web were capitalized and how to properly write "e-mail." Using Wired style: Principles of English usage in the digital age, the dictionary, and other style guides, I got my act together... sort of. Technically, "E-mail" is the way to do it, but no one wants to add two keystrokes to capitalize and add a dash. Just about every format is regularly used: "email," "e-mail," and "E-mail." It's up to the people behind the Web site to pick which to use and stick with it. Content using multiple variations of a word might be perceived as unprofessional and unorganized.

Some news sites capitalize headlines and others do it in sentence case. Neither is right or wrong. As long as the style remains the same throughout the site, it's acceptable. The only thing not to do use all upper case letters because it's harder to read and a few people feel like you're screaming at them. However, to complicate things, when using text-based newsletters and articles, it's okay to use all capital letters due to the few formatting options available. Webreference and Ezine-tips newsletters do a fine job of formatting the text.

Figure 8Figure 8 ABC News puts its headlines in title case.

Figure 9Figure 9 Dallas Morning News puts its headlines in sentence case.

Figure 10Figure 10 Webreference newsletter mixes its headline style in its text-based newsletter for improved readability and information chunking.

Having a style guide outlining organization rules, preferences, and guidelines surrounding text, content, structure, and formatting is valuable. Organizations that don't have the resources to put a guide together can purchase style books or use the Web to find one like the Yale Style Manual (http://www.webstyleguide.com/) and use it as the basis to create a brief version.

Tip #8: Be consistent.