LJMU online style guide

This online content style guide is managed by the Web Content Team. The guide covers style, spelling and grammar conventions for content published on the LJMU website. The guide is arranged in alphabetical order.

This is a long guide, and we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the content. We expect you to dip in and out of this guide to help you develop your content.

Internet and accessibility standards are continually developing so this guide is a work in progress. If you have a suggestion or question about the style guide, please contact the Web Content Team via the HelpMe Portal (opens in a new window).

Please use this guide alongside the:

Faq Items

Before you start

Writing well for the web

Users read very differently online than on paper. They do not necessarily read from top to bottom or even word to word. Research show that users only read about 20 to 28% of a webpage (opens in a new window). See the ‘Readability’ section on the Making your content accessible webpage.


Plan ahead

Start writing with a page plan. This will help you understand many objectives, including:

  • who you are targeting
  • what their needs are
  • how to address their needs
  • sources of information
  • appropriate media to accompany the text

Pages should inform and inspire. Language should be clear and accessible.


Be consistent

There are many contributors and editors on the LJMU website. It's important to be consistent in:

  • tone of voice
  • language
  • terminology
  • formatting

This page provides guidance to help us deliver a consistent and corporate website.


Read it aloud

Check your content for sense. Does it use natural language and flow well? Is it engaging?


Break up your content

Don't give users long passages of text to read. Break it up with smaller sentences and paragraphs.

Break up text with descriptive sub-headings. The text should still make sense with the sub-headings removed.

If you have a list, use bulleted lists.

Insert quotes or images with care. Only add quotes or images that bring value to the content on the page.

If you use an image, you must also add descriptions or alternative text – see the 'Images' section in this guide.


Reduce your text

Edit and edit again, keep it to the point. You only have a short time to engage your reader. So:

  • put the important information first
  • keep it short
  • keep it clear and concise

Headings and titles

You need to grab your audience, and your heading needs to be clear, concise, and descriptive. Use keywords in your headings because this will help the search engine find your content.

Active front-loaded headings engage the user quickest. For further guidance, see ‘Front loading technique’ in this guide.

To write accessible headings and titles, see ‘Headings’ and ‘Titles’ in this guide.

See ‘Keywords’ in this guide.


Hyperlinks

Use links within your text to point users to useful information, especially within our site. Keep links pertinent to the content, and always be aware that a link will take a user away from your page.

For further guidance, see ‘Links’ in this guide.


CTA

Every page should have a Call to Action (CTA) but try to limit these so that users know what to do next.

For further guidance, see ‘Call to Actions (CTA)’ in this guide.


Writing instructions

Instructions are very precise, so give them careful consideration and:

  • ask yourself, is it helpful?
  • go through the activity yourself before you write about it
  • check if the instructions are clear and accurate
  • check if it makes sense without jargon
  • test your written instructions thoroughly
  • pay attention to the smallest detail

Review and maintain your content

Review your content

You must have a review procedure for your content.

Review all content and pages on a regular basis.

The Content Owner, Subject Matter Expert, and other stakeholders must agree the review date.

Update and note the review date each time the content is reviewed or updated.

Arrange for a reminder to review and check that the content is still relevant. We recommend that a reminder is sent to a group of people, rather than one person.


Updating and maintaining your content

You are responsible for making sure all your content remains up to date.

We recommend that you do not put a date on the page unless it is necessary and part of the context. A date is quickly interpreted as ‘out-of-date’. A date will also have different relevance to different users.


Unpublishing your content

If you unpublish or retire a webpage or digital document, then links to it will break.

It is very important for you to update all links to the unpublished page. As well as checking your own content, you will need to check for links on other pages because other owners may have linked to your content.

A

Abbreviations and acronyms

The first time you use an abbreviation, explain it in full and then refer to it by initials in the remaining page’s content. You need to do this for each webpage.

For example, The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) met this week. The ELT will meet again next week.

Exceptions include:

  • well known abbreviations or acronyms such as UK, or BBC
  • banner headings when the heading would be too long to fit the banner – spell the acronym in full in the first mention in the body copy

Do not use full stops in abbreviations. For example, BBC, not B.B.C.

It is acceptable to use the acronym LJMU without first spelling it out in full if you are writing on a recognisable LJMU platform such as the LJMU website.


Accessibility

By making LJMU’s website accessible, we aim to ensure that all users have a good experience and can find and understand our information. How we write the content is as important as how we format and build the pages.

This online style guide contains guidance to help you produce accessible content.

It is important that you also make yourself familiar with the Making your content accessible guide.

Visit the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 to get a deeper insight into the recommended criteria.


Ampersand

Do not use ampersands (&) – use ‘and’ instead. The only exception is when the ampersand is part of a name or logo.

B

Bold

Only use bold sparingly. Using too much bold will make it difficult for users to know which parts of your content they need to pay the most attention to.

Do not use bold in other situations, for example to emphasise text.

To emphasise words or phrases, you can:

  • front-load sentences
  • use headings
  • uses bullets

Bullet lists

Also see ‘Numbered lists’ in this guide.

You can use a bullet list to make content easier to read. Creating a series of items as a list also enables:

  • screen readers to inform their users that they have landed on a list
  • screen readers to provide extra information such as the number of items in the list
  • screen readers to inform the user when the list ends
  • keyboard users to jump from item to item

Presenting a 'wall of text' and long paragraphs in a document or Web site can discourage reading. Instead, present key concepts as bulleted lists where possible.

Do not use the tab key or spacebar key to visually indent content.

Make sure that:

  • you always have a lead-in line with a colon
  • the bullets make sense running on from the lead-in line
  • you use lower case at the start of the bullet
  • you do not use more than one sentence per bullet point - use commas or dashes to expand on an item
  • you do not put ‘or’ or ‘and’ after the bullets
  • you do not make the whole bullet a link if it’s a long phrase
  • you do not put a semicolon at the end of a bullet
  • there is no full stop after the last bullet point

Bullets should normally form a complete sentence following from the lead text. But it’s sometimes necessary to add a short phrase to clarify whether all or some of the points apply. For example, ‘You can only register for an event that is (one of the following):’

C

Call to Actions (CTA)

A Call to Action (CTA) is an instruction to the user to encourage them to act. We use them to guide our users through a journey.

There are many different types of actions:

  • links
  • buttons
  • forms
  • email links
  • polls

Limit your CTAs per page, and make them clear, specific, and persuasive so users know what to do next.

You can use a button as a CTA, but only sparingly. We recommend one button per page/or large content block.

A button CTA at the top of the page will encourage the user to move to the next stage quickly. A button CTA at the bottom of the page allows your user to read your content before they use the CTA.

Use clear, concise and descriptive text for your CTAs. This allows the user to know what is expected of them or where they are navigating to.

If you need to include a customised CTA in your content, please contact the Web Content Team through the HelpMe Portal (opens in a new window).


Capitalisation

DO NOT USE BLOCK CAPITALS. IT'S HARD TO READ.

Always use sentence case, even in page titles. Exceptions to this are the full title of a school, faculty, or the university.

For example:

  • Staff are the heart of Liverpool John Moores University. The university has a distinct place in the city.
  • The School of Education offers high quality teaching. Graduates are prepared for a career in education.
  • The Faculty of Business and Law prepares students for the workplace. The faculty has extensive links with the business community.

Subject areas should be in lower case. Specific course should be upper case.

For example:

  • She wants to study sport science.
  • She enrolled on the BSC (Hons) Sport and Exercise Sciences course.

Titles should be upper case when used alongside someone's name.

For example:

  • The award was presented by Professor Jane Doe.
  • Jane Doe is a professor.

Use lower case for job roles held by more than one person. Use upper case for a job title referring to a specific person.

For example:

  • Each of the pro-vice-chancellors were invited to the event.
  • The Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Education will be in attendance.

Do not capitalise the first word after a colon unless it is a proper noun.


Colour

Coloured background

Do not use coloured backgrounds. This is inaccessible to someone who is blind. It can be confusing or inaccessible to people who are colour blind or have other visual impairments.

Coloured text

Do not use coloured text for emphasis, such as using red for important messages. This is inaccessible to someone who is blind, and it may be confusing or inaccessible to someone who is colour blind.


Colour contrast on non-web pages

If you are creating an attachment or document that will be delivered and viewed on screen, it must be accessible. See ‘Download documents’ for guidance.

If you cannot avoid having two colours together, they must have an acceptable contrast ratio so that the content is easy to read.

There are many free online tools that will tell you if your colour combination passes accessibility standards. Two examples are:

You must achieve an AA pass to be accessible. An AAA pass is a higher level again, and more accessible.

Different factors will influence your pass result. For example, tweaking both font size and colour may help to reach the minimum AA standard.


Contractions

Avoid negative contractions like can't and don't. Many users find them hard to read or misread them as the opposite of what they say. Use cannot, instead of can't.

Also avoid should've, could've, would've and they've. These can be hard to read.

D

Dates

Do:

  • use upper case for months: January, February
  • format a date as day-month-year: 6 June 2005
  • express a range of years in the format: 2005/07
  • express an academic year or a sporting season in the format: 2005/06
  • refer to a specific century in the format: 19th Century
  • use lower case when referring to a century without a number in the format: ‘by the end of the century’

Do not:

  • use a comma between the month and year: 28 July, 2018
  • use ‘the’ before date
  • use ordinal numbers in a date, such as 31st March

Download documents

A document is sometimes called an attachment and is something that the user will download from your page to view and use.

Do not use a document as a short-cut to get information on to the intranet.

We recommend that information is presented as a webpage rather than an attachment. This is for several reasons:

  • the content within a document cannot be found by the website search engine
  • downloaded documents are often saved to personal desktops and reused by the user - they will not be updated when the central message is updated
  • the document may not be accessible
  • the document takes the user away from the web-based content and they may not be able to navigate back

Examples when an attachment would be appropriate include:

  • a letter or a form that a user needs to print off and use as a paper document
  • a poster or a leaflet that a user can print or forward on

Please see the guidance about accessible file formats on the Making your content accessible guide.


Duplication of content

We recommend that you do not duplicate content or pages. Instead, signpost to the existing information with a brief introduction or a visual (section) link.

We recommend that you do not spread an idea or context across multiple pages. Write the information in a single place and link to it from other related pages.

If duplication is necessary, discuss using a component with the Web Content Team. The single component is reused in multiple places. So, when the component is updated, the information will cascade to all the other instances.

If you cannot avoid duplication, ensure that the Digital Services Team update the robots file to exclude the duplicate content from search. Also, exclude the item from site search within the CMS.

Always write a unique synopsis or summary for each page. Do not copy and paste your synopsis from elsewhere. The synopsis is visible in the search results and helps the user to identify the unique page they are searching for.

Do not duplicate keywords and phrases when writing meta descriptions. This will not help the search engine to identify your unique page – use fewer, more unique phrases.

E

eg

eg sometimes reads aloud as 'egg' by screen reading software. Instead use 'for example' or 'such as' or 'like' or 'including' - whichever works best in the specific context.


Email addresses

Avoid spelling out email addresses within your content. Instead, use a link across key words that make it clear where the email will be going.

Good example: Please email the Web Content Team to find out more.
Bad example: Please get in touch with us to find out more.

If you must display an email address, use lower case. For example, staffdevelopment@ljmu, not StaffDevelopment@ljmu.


Emphasis

Bold

Only use bold sparingly. See 'Bold' section.

Capitalisation

Do not use all caps. See the 'Capitalisation' section.

Italics

See the 'Italics' section.

Underline

Do not underline text for emphasis because this suggests a hyperlink.


etc

etc can usually be avoided. Try using 'for example' or 'such as' or 'like' or 'including'. Never use etc at the end of a list starting with these words.

F

FAQs

We recommend that you do not use FAQs. If you write your content by starting with user needs, you will not need to use FAQs.

FAQs are discouraged because they:

  • duplicate other content on the site
  • cannot be front-loaded (putting the most important words first), which makes usability difficult
  • are usually not frequently asked questions by the public, but important information dumped by the content editor
  • mean that content is not where people expect to find it; it needs to be in context
  • can add to search results with duplicate and competing text

Front loading technique

Users read very differently online than on paper. They do not necessarily read top to bottom or even from word to word.

Instead, users only read about 20 to 28% of a webpage. When a user wants to complete their task as quickly as possible, they skim even more out of impatience.

Web-user eye-tracking studies show that people tend to 'read' a webpage in an 'F' shape pattern. They look across the top, then down the side, and then read further across when they find what they need.

What this means is you need to put the most important information first to grab their attention. This is 'front-loading', and we apply it to sub-headings, titles and bullet points.

Title example

Write your title as 'Submitting your application', not 'How do I submit my application?'

Bullet list good example

At the activity centre you can:

  • swim
  • play
  • run
Bullet list bad example

At the activity centre:

  • you can swim
  • you can play
  • you can run

G

Government

Lower case unless it's a full title. For example: 'government policy', and 'Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'.

H

Headings

Do not confuse your heading with your page title. Also see 'Titles' in this guide.

Use headings to convey meaning

Use headings to group related paragraphs and clearly describe the sections. Good headings provide an outline of the content and puts the user needs first.

Try to use active titles and start with a verb such as check, apply, request, find out. An active word at the beginning of the heading immediately tells your user if the content is relevant to them.

Avoid:

  • 'introduction' as your first section – users do not want an introduction, just give them important information
  • technical terms unless you've already explained them
  • questions - users tend to only read the first few words of a title and skip to the next
  • multiple headings starting with 'What is..., Where is..., How do I..., you will lose their engagement - this particularly impacts visually-impaired users who need to zoom in to the screen and can only see the first few words of a sentence before scrolling
  • duplications - the main banner headline should not duplicate the body copy headline or subhead - they need to be unique
Use headings to provide structure

Use heading levels and sub-headings to break up your content and give it a sensible navigation structure. Screen reading technology allows users to jump from heading to heading. This allows them to navigate the page to the section they are interested in.

Sighted users also hop from heading to heading to find the content they are interested in.

The page title is always H1 (heading level 1), so start your content with a H2 heading.

Headings and subheadings always follow:

  • Heading 1 – H1 - page title (never use heading level 1 for any other headings)
  • Heading 2 – H2 - major section heading
  • Heading 3 – H3 - subheading of the heading 2
  • Heading 4 – H4 - subheading of the heading 3

Do not skip heading levels, for example from H2 to H4. Screen readers use headings to navigate and missing a level can be confusing.

Subheadings

Subheadings should always be short, clear, and concise. Never use a subheading style for a paragraph. This is inaccessible.

Do not use bold text instead of using sub-headings. This is inaccessible because a screen reader will not recognise it as a header.

Grammar and punctuation in headings

Good practice examples include:

  • using sentence case (opens in a new window)
  • not using a full stop at the end
  • avoid saying the same thing twice (tautologies) – it uses up valuable characters
  • Bad example: Applying and submitting your application
  • Good example: Submitting your application

I

ie

ie is often used to clarify a sentence, and is not always well understood. Try writing sentences to avoid the need to use it. If that is not possible, use an alternative such as ‘meaning’ or ‘that is’.


Images

Images are not accessible to everyone.

For example, images are not easy to read when people using screen magnifiers to zoom into them. Magnified images can pixelate and need scrolling vertically and horizontally to view them.

Avoid images that contain text. Write it in the body text instead.

Only use images if they:

  • provide context for your content
  • help users understand information in a different way, like diagrams
  • enhance or compliment the subject matter
  • inspire and are inclusive

Images must be supplied to the Web Content Team in a high-resolution format. The higher the better.

Describing an image

Images must have meaningful descriptive alternative text for people who cannot see them.

We recommend you describe what’s happening in the image in the page’s content and leave the image's ‘Alt tag’ field empty. This means the description is available to everyone. Screen reading software will ignore images without alt text.

Do not duplicate text in the alt tag or image caption if you’ve written a description in the body text. This causes ‘auditory clutter’ for screen reader users.

Image alt tags

Only use the alt tag if you cannot add the description in the page body text.

Alt text is used as an alternative to an image for people that use assistive technology, like screen reading software. When providing text for an alt tag, make sure it describes what is happening in the image and is short.

Useful information about context for images can be found in the WebAIM website – Alternative Text (opens in a new window).

Visit Microsoft’s guidance for adding alt text to images in Microsoft documents (opens in a new window).

Visit Canvas’s guidance for adding images to Canvas (opens in a new window).


Interactivity and shareability

Consider if your content will lend itself to a more interactive format such as:

  • videos
  • lists
  • step by step guides
  • animations

Where it is relevant, include social media feeds and references.

You must make sure that your interactive format is accessible. See the Making your content accessible guide for further guidance.

Download the video production process guidance (PDF, 880KB).


Italics

Titles of books, journals, plays, films, and musical works should be formatted in italics if they are a complete published work.

If you are referring to an individual short story, song, or article within a larger publication, use quotation marks.

Avoid chunks of italic text.

K

Keywords and meta description

See the ‘Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)’ section in this guide.

L

Language and writing for the web

Keep your content as focused as possible. Keep your user’s attention and do not waste their time.

Remember that you will be competing with outside factors for people’s attention, and possibly their mood and situation. They may be on a busy train, or in a noisy café, or any number of stressful and unknown environments.

Language to structure your content

Give shape and meaning to your page by:

  • not repeating the summary or synopsis in the first paragraph
  • using the ‘inverted pyramid’ approach with the most important information at the top tapering down to lesser detail
  • breaking up text with descriptive sub-headings – the text should still make sense with the sub-headings removed
  • ensuring paragraphs have no more than 5 sentences each
  • including keywords to boost natural search rankings
Language tone

Use plain English wherever possible, and avoid university, sector or subject-specific jargon.

Use the active rather than passive voice. This will help to write concise, clear content.

Addressing your audience

Wherever possible 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’.

Grammar, spellings and punctuation

Mistakes such as typos, spelling and grammatical errors are damaging to LJMU’s reputation as a quality provider of higher education. You must always proofread your copy before publishing.

This list is not exhaustive. It is an indicator to show you some conventions.

Also see ‘Commonly used words and phrasesin this guide. 

Do:

  • use English spellings not American
  • use sentence case (opens in a new window) throughout the website - if necessary, change content that has been supplied
  • use abbreviation and acronyms correctly - the first time you use an abbreviation or acronym explain it in full on each page unless it’s well known, like UK, EU and BBC
  • use a full stop at the end of a quotation inside the quote marks if the material quoted is a complete sentence - for example: He said “I enjoyed my time at LJMU.” 
  • place the full stop outside of the material quoted if the quote is not a full sentence - He described his time at LJMU as “very enjoyable”.

Do not:

  • use ampersands (&) unless as part of a name or logo
  • use slashes instead of ‘or’ – for example, ‘apples or oranges’
  • use exclamation marks - they are overused and do not accurately convey tone of voice
  • use letter spaces on either side of an ellipsis (...)
  • use ‘whilst’
  • use semicolons because they are often misread – long sentences needing a semicolon should be broken into smaller sentences

Collective nouns are singular in most cases - for example, ‘the team is improving’.

Language for links

To understand how to write and use a link, see the ‘Links’ section in this guide.

Simple lists

In a simple list, separate each item with a comma, but do not put a comma before ‘and’.

Complex lists should be bulleted to make them easier to read. See the ‘Bulleted lists’ section in this guide.


Layout

The layout of a page should work to enhance the copy and make it easier for the user to understand.

The layout should be consistent across the site.

Do not justify text because it is harder to read. Text should be flush left.

Use testimonials in quote components as a device to break up text. Note that when omitting a word or part of a quote, you should use ellipses to show the omission.

Bring figures or stats out of the text into a rotational Quick Facts component or a key figures component. The Web Content Team will advise.

Do not use tables to layout a page. Tables used in this manner are not accessible. For further guidance, see the ‘Tables’ section in this guide.


Links

Do not duplicate information. Always link to existing content rather than repeating it.

Make sure all links are provided in context, at the point in the content at which they’re useful.

Do not put all links together at the bottom of the page.

Writing a link

Never use generic text for links, such as ‘Click here’, ‘Here’, or ‘Read more’. Generic links do not make sense out of context or tell users where a link will take them. They also do not work for people using screen readers, who often scan through a list of links to navigate a page.

It is important the links are active and descriptive so that they make sense in isolation. The link text must give clues to:

  • where you are sending them - ‘the bursary and scholarship guidance’
  • what they need to do when they get there - ‘find an undergraduate course’
  • why they are going there - ‘to order a brochure’

If your link leads to information, make the link text describe the information. For example, ‘degree apprenticeship information for employers’. Consider using the title of the page the link goes to as your link text.

If your link takes the user to a page where they can start a task, start your link with a verb. For example, ‘apply for a postgraduate course’.

Do not use the same link text to link to different places.

Avoid one word links.

Avoid using long text phrases for links. Make sure the link is no longer than 4/5 words. Link only the key part of the phrase, such as: Find out about the Centre’s research into primates.

Do not use naked links (full URLs) as text links because this is not accessible. People using a screen reader will hear the whole thing read out.

If you’re sending a user to a website and they will need a password, add (log in) immediately after the link. Do not include (log in) in the link text.

Be aware that what you name a page will be the tail end of your page's URL. So, keep it short but also consider using keywords to boost the page’s ranking in the search results.

Placing and using links

You cannot place a link in:

  • a title
  • a summary or synopsis
  • headings
  • subheadings

Think about the size of the link users need to select. For users with reduced motor skills, a one-word link could be very difficult to select.

Always check your links work and go to the correct content.

Links help people scan content, so do not:

  • swamp them with too many
  • link to the same tool or webpage throughout your page

Links should never be empty. They must always contain text. Do not include spaces at the end of your link text.

Links do not appear in:

  • headings
  • subheadings
  • summaries
Linking to external sites

When linking to an external site you must check if the site is usable and accessible (especially on mobile) and if it’s a safe place to send a user. Read the site’s privacy and cookie policies.

Plan how you’re going to maintain the link. The content on the external website can stop being useful. Links break and the design, content and privacy can change without warning.

If you are sending the user to an external site, consider naming the site in the link’s text. This helps the user to understand that they are going somewhere else.
For example: Find a postcode on the Royal Mail's postcode finder.

This kind of link is preferred because it:

  • does not require opening in a new window because the user is aware that they are leaving the LJMU website
  • allows the user to use the back button to navigate back to the LJMU site

If you are sending the user to an external site and cannot name the site in the link’s text, then:

  • it must be opened in a new window
  • you must add (opens in a new window) immediately after the link text
  • the text (opens in a new window) must be included in the link
  • be aware that a new window takes the user away and removes the ability to use the back button to return to the LJMU website

If you’re sending a user to a website that needs a password:

  • add (log in) immediately after the link
  • do not include (log in) in the link text

Liverpool John Moores University

Refer to the institute as:

  • Liverpool John Moores University
  • LJMU
  • the university

You should not refer to:

  • JMU
  • Liverpool John Moores
  • the University

M

Meta description and keywords

See the ‘Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)’ section in this guide.

N

Numbers

Do:

  • spell out all numbers between one to number nine
  • write all numbers from 10 and above in numerals
  • write a number in full when it’s part of a common expression like ‘one or two of them’, and where numerals would look strange
  • use a number for digit that is lower than nine when it is with a unit of measurement or percentage, such as 4%
  • spell out ordinal numbers from first to ninth, after that use 10th, 11th and so on
  • insert a comma in numerals over 999 - for clarity: 880,010
  • spell out millions, billions and trillions
  • start a sentence with a spelled number, such as ‘Twenty people attended.’
  • use % rather than per cent
  • use % sign with a number: 55%
  • use per cent not percent (in words)
  • use the telephone number format: +44 (0)151 231 0000
  • use Telephone:, or Mobile: - not Mob.:

For monetary values:

  • abbreviate millions to m
  • abbreviate billions to bn
  • abbreviate trillions to tn

Spell out units of measurement in full (such as metres or kilograms). Abbreviate those words when referring to a specific measurement. For example:

  • The cost per kilogram was too expensive.
  • I bought 10kg of vegetables.

Do not:

  • start a sentence with digits

The exceptions for starting a sentence with digits are:

  • listicles
  • features and blogs headings can start with a digit, for example, '10 best places study spaces', but this only applies to headings not body copy

Numbered lists

Also see ‘Bulleted lists’ in this guide.

Use numbered steps instead of bullet points to guide a user through a process. You do not need a lead-in line.

Steps end in a full stop because each should be a complete sentence.

P

Page length

There is no minimum or maximum page length for LJMU website. However:

This means that if you get to the point quickly, your target audience is more likely to see your information.

It’s most important that you write well. If you write only a single paragraph but it’s full of caveats, jargon and things users do not need to know (but you want to say) then it’s still too much.

Page content length

Try to keep sentences, CTAs, paragraphs and pages concise. People tend to scan webpages rather than read them.

Try to limit paragraph lengths to approx. 5 sentences.

Break up text with subheadings and bullet points. This helps readers to skim over the page to find the information they need.

If some of the content lends itself to collapsible/expandable dropdowns such as the FAQ component, add this to your page to shorten the page length.

Q

Quote and speech mark

Use single quotes:

  • in headlines
  • for unusual terms
  • when referring to words
  • when referring to publications
  • when referring to notifications such as emails or alerts

For example: Download the document ‘Map of Liverpool cycle paths’ (PDF, 360KB).

Use double quotes in body text for direct quotations.

S

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Keywords and meta data are phrases and words that tell the search engines what the topic of the page is. It is important that the keywords and metadata accurately reflect the content of your page.

Generic words and phrases that appear on too many pages will not help your page stand out amongst the crowd. ‘Protractor’ and ‘semicircle’ may not be attractive words, but the users who google exactly those items are far more likely to find your page.

Think from the viewpoint of the user. Consider the words and phrases they would use when they search for your content. Incorporate these and similar words and phrases within your content.

Once you know the most popular keywords you can use them in the:

  • title
  • summary or synopsis
  • introductory sentence
  • headings
  • subheadings
  • meta descriptions

Summaries and meta descriptions are often truncated, so try to keep them to 160 character limit.

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

Writing in the ‘inverted pyramid’ style encourages keywords and phrases to appear in the top of the page’s content. This will help the SEO.


Spacing

Do not double space - only use:

  • one space between sentences
  • a single line break between paragraphs

‘Summary’ or ‘Synopsis’

The summary or synopsis is the text that appears beneath the page title in search results and gives a description of the page’s content. Please provide this.
If a summary is too long, then Google can cut it short.
Summaries should:

  • be 160 characters or less
  • end with a full stop
  • not repeat the title or body text
  • be clear and specific

T

Tables

Tables are often inaccessible.

Sighted users can visually scan a table. Someone that cannot see the table cannot make these visual associations.

Tables can be difficult to read by all users.

Do not use tables to layout text on your page.

Tables should only be used to present data.

The size of a table affects how easy it is for people to read it and understand it. The minimum size for a table should be 2 columns and 3 rows (including a column header). Yet, if your table is this small it may be better as normal text.

Try to use more rows than columns. A tall, narrow table is easier to read than a short, wide one.

A simple table can often be replaced with a:

  • series of bulleted lists with headings and subheadings
  • single bulleted list

A table must have brief descriptive text before or after the table that describes the content of the table.


Time

Do:

  • use the 12-hour clock with a full stop between the hours and minutes
  • use ‘to’ in time ranges
  • use midday (not 12 noon, noon or 12pm)
  • use midnight (not 00:00)

For example:

  • 1.00pm to 2.30pm (with no space between the time and ‘am’ or ‘pm’)
  • the meeting will start at 1.30pm and will end at 3pm

Do not:

  • format time as ’between 9-11am’
  • add the minutes at the top of the hour (3pm)

Time-sensitive content

If you are adding content with dates, you must make a note of when the dates are due to pass so you can update the page. If you can write the content without time-sensitive information, then do so.


Titles

You need to grab your audience, so give your page title some consideration.

Do not confuse your page title with headings. See the ‘Headings’ section in this guide.

Titles are important because they inform your user what the page is about. They engage the user to want to read more. They are also used by search engines to find and rank your content.

Page titles must be unique. This helps the search engine to find the page and to rank it higher in the search results. If you are unsure whether your title is unique, search the LJMU website.

Page titles must:

  • be 65 characters or less (Google cuts off the rest of the title at around 65 characters)
  • be unique, clear, and descriptive
    • Bad example: Room bookings – new process.
    • Good example: Book a room in your building
  • be front-loaded (put the most important information first)
    • Bad example: What’s happening in Wellbeing week?
    • Good example: Wellbeing week events
  • use a colon to break up longer titles
  • not contain dashes or slashes
  • not have a full stop at the end
  • not use acronyms unless they are well-known, like EU
Check your title makes sense

 The title ‘Instructions’ does not say much, but ‘Instructions for writing a good webpage’ does.

Use a keyword within your title

This helps the search engine to find your content and rank it higher in the results.

See the ‘Keyword’ section in this guide for further information.

Page title structure

The page title is always H1 (heading level 1).


Commonly used words and phrases

The following examples show the correct use for commonly used words and phrases. This list is not exhaustive.

  • BA, MA, PhD
  • email – one word
  • Faculty, School, Centre or Department names should be written accurately and in full – for example, the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, and the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences
  • Faculty and School - use upper case ‘Faculty’ or ‘School’ only when referring to a specific faculty or school
  • faculty and school - use lower case when referring to faculties in general terms: ‘At LJMU we have four faculties’
  • full time and part time – ‘The course is studied full time or part time’
  • full-time and part-time - when used as an adjective, use the hyphen ‘It is a part-time course’
  • Great Britain: is made up of England, Scotland, and Wales; the United Kingdom also includes Northern Ireland
  • higher education and further education
  • IM Marsh – no space or stops between I and M
  • use -isation rather than –ization
  • lecturer, not Lecturer
  • ‘Liverpool John Moores University’ –use in full wherever possible
  • ‘Liverpool John Moores University’ must be written in full when using it for the first time on a page - thereafter, LJMU is acceptable
  • LJMU abbreviation – only LJMU is acceptable, not JM or other variations
  • Mr, Dr, Ms – no full stop after the title
  • no one – two words
  • North West - use capitals only when referring to the North West. Otherwise, use lower case, such as ‘in the north west of England’ and ‘travel in a north westerly direction’
  • online – one word
  • practice (noun), practise (verb)
  • Professor - do not abbreviate to Prof.
  • Professor – use capital P for the title, otherwise use lower case ‘He is a university professor’
  • Pro-Vice-Chancellor
  • School or Centre abbreviation – write the school’s name in full when it is first mentioned and follow with the abbreviation in brackets: General Engineering Research Institute (GERI). Thereafter the abbreviation can be used.
  • a subject is lower case, a specific course is upper case, such as sport science and BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Sciences 
  • under way – two words
  • Vice-Chancellor
  • webpage – one word
  • website – one word

Drop-in sessions presentation slides

Download a copy of the presentation slides from our drop-in sessions:

Please contact the Web Content Team via a helpdesk ticket if you have a specific subject request for a session.