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LJMU online style guide

How to write and edit for the LJMU website

This style guide relates to online content managed by the digital marketing team. The information should be used in conjunction with the LJMU Online Brand Guidelines and Content Strategy. For copies of these documents please get in touch with the digital marketing team. The style guide is a work in progress so please be aware that not everything will be covered but drop us a line if you have any suggestions or questions.

Tips for online copywriting

  • Do your research: you can't write copy unless you know who you're writing for, how that person thinks and what that person needs

  • Plan your page: once you know the above, write a page plan (templates are available from the online copywriting team) before you start writing so you're clear on your target audience, their needs/wants (and how we can address those), sources of information, appropriate media to accompany the copy, etc.

  • Come up with a decent headline: you need to grab your audience, so make sure you give your headline some consideration. It needs to be relevant to the text that follows as well as engaging. If you’re stuck for ideas you could try phrasing the headline as a question, ‘how to’, or step-by-step guide to try to address the reader’s concerns. Could your copy work in a listicle structure? If so, your headline is taken care of by this structure

  • Keep it consistent: as there are a number of contributors/editors on the LJMU website, it's important to be consistent in tone of voice, language, terminology used, etc. Check the information in this style guide or use the existing website as a model if in doubt

  • Write clear instructions: instructional text is probably the most important copy you’ll write so give it careful consideration. Is it helpful? Will it guide users on their journey? Go through the activity yourself before you write about it

  • Read it aloud: check your copy for sense, does it use natural flow and language? Is it engaging?

  • Break up your copy: don't give users long reams of text to read, break it up with subheadings, bulleted lists, quotes, stats, images/videos, etc.

  • Reduce your text: edit and edit again, keep it as short and to the point as possible

  • Use links within your text: the website is meant to be a journey for users so point people to useful information, especially within our site and useful external sources if we don’t host the information (remember to set links to external sites to open in a new window so users don't leave our site completely) - see the section on links below

  • Think about your CTAs: every page should have a call to action, but try to limit these, so users know what to do next. For main CTAs you can use the blue button to attract the user's attention. As they are essential to conversion, the wording and placement of CTAs needs your careful consideration. For longer pages, don't be afraid to put the CTA both above the fold and at the end of copy - see the section on CTAs below

General copy guidelines

  • Use plain English wherever possible; try to avoid university, sector or subject-specific jargon

  • Use English spellings not American, except in the case of proper nouns or in an American context, ie a program that takes place in America

  • Spell out acronyms that aren’t in common use (exceptions: when used in banner headings and the heading would be too long to incorporate, in this case be sure to spell out the acronyms in the first mention of the body copy)

  • Mistakes such as typos, spelling and grammatical errors could potentially be damaging to LJMU’s reputation as a quality provider of higher education so it is essential that you always proofread copy before publishing

  • Do not use stats or claims without backing them up with sources

  • Do not use ampersands unless as part of a name/logo

  • Do not use exclamation marks, definitely not double exclamation marks

  • Be aware of supplied content using upper case words that do not require it and change to lower case

  • When separating items with ‘/’ do not put spaces before or after the '/' e.g. apples/oranges

  • A full stop at the end of a quotation goes inside the quote marks if the material quoted is a complete sentence, outside if it is not. For example: He said: “I enjoyed my time at LJMU.” He described his time at LJMU as “very enjoyable”. When using two or more paragraphs of quotation, do not close the quotation marks until the final paragraph.

  • Government – use capital G only in the phrase the Government, meaning the present or a past government. Otherwise, use lower case – government policy, a future Labour government, etc.

  • University – use the capital U when referring to LJMU e.g. “The University has bestowed an Honorary Fellowship”,“Most universities to charge £9,000 fees”

  • Avoid using ‘whilst’ and 'amongst'

  • North West – use capitals only when referring to the North West. Otherwise, use lower case e.g. in the north west of England; travel in a north westerly direction

  • In a simple list, separate each item with a comma, but do not put a comma before ‘and’. In more complex lists, to aid readability, a comma before ‘and’ may be helpful and is permissible. For example: The Director of the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, and the Head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship both attended the event

  • Collective nouns are singular in most cases, ie, the team is improving

Addressing your audience

  • Ask whether a webpage is the best format for the information you have. Perhaps it could be a social media post, an email, video or printed document. If you're unsure, ask the digital marketing team for advice

  • Ask whether the information you want to add to the website is useful to the audience, if so, further examine it to determine what aspects are most useful to narrow it down. Decide what questions this user would be asking about the topic and then answer these in the text in a concise way. Anticipate what might stop them from proceeding further on their journey on the website and address any potential blocks, ie have you provided them with a link to the next steps, every page should have at least one CTA

  • Address the student as an individual and reflect their point-of-view, not the University’s. Try to avoid ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’. Instead use ‘you’, ‘your’

  • Pages should inform and inspire, language should be clear and accessible

Titles/headings

  • Use sentence case for titles/headings

  • The main banner headline should not be duplicated word for word on the body copy headline or subhead, these need to be unique

  • As a style we don't tend to use a full stop at the end of introductory headings

  • Include keywords in headings and subheadings

  • As a default use <h4> tags for subheadings within the body copy (although there may be instances when <h5> or <h3> is appropriate to use, in particular when trying to match the display of components used on the page, please refer to existing pages for reference)

Spacing

  • Only use one character space between sentences – do not double space

  • Only use a single paragraph break between paragraphs

Bulleted lists

  • Use bullets in place of long paragraphs whenever possible to make the copy more concise and easier to understand

  • If the items in a bullet-pointed list do not flow directly on from the lead-in text to form full, self-contained sentences, use an uppercase letter at the beginning of each bullet point

For example:

We offer a range of services for students.

  • You can have free one-to-one counselling
  • Our trained staff offer study support
  • The Student Advice and Wellbeing team provide financial advice
  • iPads are available in the libraries
  • If the bulleted items form complete sentences when put with the lead-in text they should begin with a lowercase letter (unless an initial uppercase letter is required – e.g. proper noun). Always ensure that each bullet point makes sense as an extension of the lead-in wording.

For example:

Students can access:

  • counselling services
  • study support
  • Liverpool-based medical services
  • financial advice
  • iPads
  • Do not punctuate at the end of each point (no full stops)
  • If a bullet point contains more than one sentence it is permissible to put a full stop at the end of each sentence, but not the last sentence, within that bullet point (so the bullet point ends without a full stop)
  • For long lists of bullets (use your judgement, perhaps more than six) split equally into two columns in order to keep the page short (two columns will stack on mobile)

Links

  • When linking to an external website ensure the link is set to open in a new window

  • When linking to an internal webpage the link does not need to open in a new window

  • Ensure links to pdfs are set to open in a new window – this is really important as the user will shut down their browser (our website) when they close the pdf

  • Always link dynamically on the website, don’t use absolute/relative links unless there is no other way to link to the page on our website (ie. when linking to a particular search result on the course factfile, PGR, PGT, etc.) Linking dynamically is really important as the system alerts users to broken links so the user can relink it and avoid having broken links on the site

  • Do not use ‘click here’ or ‘here’ as link text as they are not good for accessibility/usability/seo. Instead use descriptive text (note: you don’t need to include the action in the link text) (guidelines: http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/noClickHere) eg: View Dr Smith’s profile, Download the undergraduate prospectus

  • Avoid using long link text, no longer than 4/5 words, you can instead link the key part of the phrase, such as: Find out about the Centre’s research into primates

  • Do not use full URLs as text links (unless it is a part of terms and conditions and similar type of content where there is a requirement to do so)

  • Also try to avoid spelling out email addresses within the body copy, instead you could link across the key words such as: Please get in touch with us to find out more. If you do need to include the email address, for a contact us section for example, they should be displayed as all lower case: staffdevelopment@ljmu not StaffDevelopment@ljmu

  • If a link occurs at the end of a sentence you should include a full stop but do not include the full stop within the link or link text

  • If you’re sending a user to the intranet and a password is required, indicate this by including (log in required) following the link but not included in the link text

CTAs

  • Use active, strong, clear, enthusiastic but brief CTAs. 'See' and 'read' are pretty passive so try to avoid these if you can, maybe try 'discover', 'explore', 'check out', 'take the next steps', etc.

  • The CTA should be meaningful; it should let the user know what they should do next

  • You can try using fear of missing out tactics, like: Register today, Apply now, etc.

  • If you're page doesn't have a CTA on it, you'll need to question why you've got a webpage at all. A webpage shouldn't be a deadend

  • Do not use CTAs such as ‘Find out more about…’, unless you have provided sufficient content leading up to that line. Otherwise if it’s the first time the user has been introduced to the topic you should just use ‘Find out about…’

  • Don't be lazy with CTAs: DO NOT use 'click here' or 'here' for your CTAs (see links section above for more info)

Layout

  • Break up text with subheadings, lists, testimonials, images/videos or by presenting content in different ways so the user can find the relevant info quickly and is kept engaged. There are different components to use such as two column copy text, dropdown FAQs, image galleries, and more. If you don't know what options are available, ask one of the digital marketing team for help

  • There are different templates to use depending on the type of content you are presenting. For example, if you are creating a campaign landing page or information that doesn't rely on the left hand navigation being available, you can use full width templates. Keep in mind that text can be difficult to read when stretched across a full width screen so be mindful of the amount of copy you have to include for pages of this nature

  • Do not justify text as this is harder to read, text should be flush left

  • For any figures or stats bring these out of the text into a rotational quick facts component or key figures component

  • Consider the layout for other devices not just desktop. For example, do not enter text without non-breaking spaces (especially in places such as the Key Figures component) as once this page is reduced in width (mobile view) the spaces will display between text

Copy length

  • Try to keep sentences/CTAs/paragraphs/pages concise, for most types of content people tend to scan rather than read

  • Try to limit paragraph length to 3-4 lines

  • Break up text with subheadings and bullet points to help readers skim over the page to get to the information they need

  • If some of the content lends itself to a collapsible/expandable dropdowns (faq component) add this to your page to shorten the page length

  • To make the content more consumable consider video as an alternative to reams of text

Images

  • When using image carousels try to use the text elements/captions to explain the image wherever possible, this helps the user understand the context of the image, aids accessibility and is good for SEO

  • Images need to be resized/cropped to match their intended use (depending on whether they are going to be used as section links, banners, gallery images, etc.) Images should be resized to fit the dimensions of the particular section they will be used in Photoshop before they are uploaded to the website, do not choose the incorrect-sized image from within the CMS media repository

  • As banner images are letterbox in style they should be carefully resized and cropped so that the majority of the subject is on the right-hand side without it being hidden by the blue title bar. Also ensure that 360px height banners (for courses) are uploaded distinctly from 290px height banners

  • Try to use images that enhance/compliment the subject matter. For example, don’t use an image of the interior of an empty building when the topic is about providing support

  • Images, like copy, should inspire and should be inclusive

  • Naming conventions: ideally image filenames should be named according to where they are going to be used/subject area and include the dimensions of the image within the name itself, ie RISES_biomechanics_research_1320x290px.jpg, so that on first glance other CMS users can see the dimensions and it gives an idea of where the image belongs/what it is

  • Organise images within the media repository in a meaningful way by naming folders according to type/size

  • Ensure that any copyright info is included in captions

  • Photos are typically acquired from LJMU's Photoshelter site, if there are any queries about which image you should use, please get in touch with the digital marketing team

Alt tags

Alt text is used for screenreaders and if the viewer can’t or chooses not to view the images. The context of the page helps determine what information is useful as alt text for an image. It also helps to include keywords in the description to aid SEO.

  • Alt text should generally be short

  • Generic illustrative – stock image or photo to illustrate the copy: not necessarily obvious from the copy what this would be so describe quickly and literally, e.g. ‘Wooden hourglass on wooden surface’, ‘Man’s hands in handcuffs held behind his back’. This is information that is unlikely to be included as a caption so should be included as alt text

  • Specific illustrative – if the image is of a specific thing or place it is best to describe it in specifics, e.g. ‘Canary Wharf at night reflected in the Thames’, rather than ‘Tall office blocks at night reflected in a river’; the former is still indicative of the latter but gives useful extra information. ‘Bandstand in Nice used as a memorial with flowers and French flags’. A caption may provide the specific information, in which case the alt text field can be left blank

  • Specific individual – likely referenced in the copy, so the name is usually enough. Extra illustrative information may be helpful if relevant to copy, e.g. ‘Sandra Edmunds in the field’

  • Group – either a quick description, e.g. ‘Large group of students in a workshop room’, or mentioning a specific individual/group already highlighted in the copy if relevant, e.g. ‘Betty and other students pose for a selfie’, ‘Law student debating finalists’. Again this information may be included in a caption, in which case the alt text field can be left blank. Useful information about context for images: http://webaim.org/techniques/alttext/

SEO

  • Consider the words/phrases that your audience would use when searching on Google and incorporate these and similar words/phrases within your copy

  • Ensure the synopsis and meta descriptions use the keywords/phrases to aid search

  • Meta descriptions are truncated so try to keep them to 160 character limit

  • Give some thought to the synopses, these are displayed on the internal site search (or as summaries when used in news, features, blogs), they should be concise but descriptive and give an indication of what the user will find on the page. They should be unique to that page and not duplicated across similar pages

  • Do not overload your copy with keywords, using natural language will always work well for SEO

  • Write in the pyramid style and keywords/phrases should naturally load towards the top which will help SEO

  • To aid our internal site search you should also complete the SearchTerms field with relevant keywords, e.g. student accommodation in Liverpool,university accommodation in Liverpool,university accommodation,accommodation options,student halls,search student accommodation. You can also use these same terms to populate the Keyword Metadata field, however be aware that Google likely ignores these so don't expect to rank high based on this field being populated – spend more time and effort on-page SEO tactics to see improvements

Commonly used words and phrases - correct versions

  • full time and part time – “The course can be studied full time or part time”, however when it is used as an adjective use the hyphen: “It is a part-time course”

  • use -isation rather than –ization

  • A Level

  • IM Marsh – no space or stops between I and M

  • Mr/Dr/Ms etc. – no full stop after title

  • no one – two words

  • under way – two words

  • practice (noun), practise (verb)

  • Professor (do not abbreviate to Prof.) Capital P is used for the title Professor. Otherwise use lower case – He is a university professor

  • Pro-Vice-Chancellor

  • Vice-Chancellor

  • online – no hyphen/spaces between

  • webpage – no hyphen/spaces between

  • website – no hyphen/spaces between

  • etc.

  • BA, MA, PhD

  • masters course (use masters… not masters’ or master’s)

  • abbreviations – where possible use ‘Liverpool John Moores University’, especially when mentioning it the first time on a page. Thereafter, the only acceptable abbreviation is ‘LJMU’. When mentioning a School/Centre for the first time on a page, spell it out in full – e.g. General Engineering Research Institute (GERI). Thereafter the abbreviation may be used

  • Great Britain: is made up of England, Scotland and Wales; the United Kingdom also includes Northern Ireland

  • healthcare is all one word

  • use en dashes within text in place of hyphens (html: &ndash;)

  • ensure correct Faculty/School/Centre/Department name is used, e.g. it is the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences and the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences

  • use upper case ‘Faculty’ or ‘School’ only when referring to a specific Faculty or School e.g. At LJMU we have four faculties

Numbers, dates and times

  • Use commas to separate groups of thousands: 880,010

  • Use % rather than per cent

  • A range of years should be expressed in the form: 2005/07

  • Telephone number format: +44 (0)151 231 0000, try to use clickable phone numbers: <a href="tel:+15555551212">555-555-1212</a>

  • Dates should take the form 6 June 2005 – don’t use ‘the’ before date or th/st after number

  • Times should be written as either 1.00pm to 2.30pm or 9.00am – 5.00pm (with spaces before and after the dash and no space between the time and am or pm). Do not use the format “between 9-11am”

  • Use: pm/am/midday/midnight

  • Spell out numbers between one and nine, anything after than should be represented in figures except with abbreviated units of measurement and with percentages (eg: 4%). Exception to this rule is headlines for listicles where we use digits. Never start a sentence with digits

Time sensitive content

If you're adding content with dates ensure that you make a note of when the dates are due to pass so you can update the page, or set the page to automatically be unpublished. If you can initially edit to remove any time-sensitive content then do so

Interactivity/shareability

  • Your content might best lend itself to more interactive formats: videos, infographics, lists, step-by-step guides, animations, FAQs, other sharable content

  • Include social media feeds/references in text where applicable, try to encourage sharing