Lists are a handy tool for clear communication. When you use bullet points or numbered lists, you break up (chunk) blocks of content and make them easier to scan. Here are a few tips on using lists effectively.
- If you have more than 2 points to make, consider using a list.
- If you have more than 6 or 7 items in your list, use subheadings to group them.
- Use a numbered list only if order is important. (For example, if you’re telling people the steps in a process.)
- Don’t punctuate items in a list unless they’re independent, full sentences.
Most readers will skim the headers before deciding whether to read more. To make sure you get key information across, use headers strategically. Here’s how:
- Be informative — tell people what they’ll get in each section of text.
- Think like your users — what are they most likely looking for?
- Consider using questions as headings — but make sure you write questions that people will actually relate to.
For page titles and labels in the site’s navigation, use title case (capitalize the first letter of each word). See this example of the navigation bar, where each section is in title case:
But with all other labels and headers on a page, use sentence case (capitalize only the first letter of the first word). For example, all the headers on this page are in sentence case.
You don’t need to capitalize types of child care programs.
|Learn about child care centers, family child care homes, and group child care homes.|
When it comes to adding emphasis to specific text, some of the old favorites aren’t good for users — for example, writing in all caps or in italics. But you have other options.
|Yes to these||No to these|
|To emphasize important content, feel free to:|
– Use bold text
– Put it in a header
– Create a callout box
– Add an exclamation point (Note: Use only one, and it’s usually better to use it to emphasize something light or funny to minimize the risk of inadvertently offending someone.)
All of these will be more effective if we use them judiciously.
– All caps — it’s harder to read and can feel like being yelling at
– All italics — it’s harder to read
– Underlining — it looks like a link
– Multiple exclamation points — looks like yelling and seems unprofessional
Use it. When you have a list, always put a comma before the “and” or “or” at the end of the sentence.
|Learn about child care centers, family child care homes, and group child care homes.||Learn about child care centers, family child care homes and group child care homes.|
When 2 words are paired together as an adjective to describe something else, use a hyphen.
- Ex: She has decision-making power.
When they’re not used as adjectives, don’t use the hyphen.
- Ex: She’s the decision maker.
Spaces after a period
Use 1 space after periods, not 2. We know it’s a hard habit to break — and contrary to what you may have learned in school. But it’s now standard and important rule to follow for consistency.
Avoid symbols like “&” and “%.” They may take up a little less space, but spelling out the words is clearer.
When introducing a link, help users understand where a link is taking them and what to expect.
- Provide context — a sentence or phrase — to explain what the link is
- Frame the link with actionable language
Don’t use “click here” and similar phrases.
|To learn about background checks, click here.|
- “Click here” — and other vague phrases like “Learn more” — don’t tell users anything about the link itself. Users have to read all the surrounding copy to understand what you’re talking about.
- Vague link labels are a serious problem for accessibility. People using screen readers to scan the page for links won’t understand what they mean.
- While it’s a minor issue, “clicking” doesn’t really make sense anymore. Many users aren’t using a mouse — they’re tapping on their phone or tablet.
When linking to resources, let users know where they’re going.
If you have a list of links to non-OEC resources, always state the title followed by the website or organization in parentheses.
If the link is to a PDF or other file format (e.g., Excel spreadsheet), WordPress will automatically add an icon at the end of the name to indicate it’s a file. That way, people will know they’re about to download a file instead of opening a webpage.
Don’t include URLs in web copy.
|Learn about background checks at https://www.ctoec.org/background-checks/#Get-a-new-background-check|
Last updated footer
At the bottom of the page (or in the footer) always include the date when OEC last updated or reviewed the content. WordPress will add this information automatically when you post, but make sure it’s on static documents (e.g., PDFs) as well.