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Writing and Formatting for the Web

Follow these best practices when writing and formatting the content of all web pages, news items, and events.

Getting Started

Always use Firefox browser when working with the Plone CMS.

Title Field

  • Should be short and descriptive, no more than 50 to 60 total characters to be optimized for search engines.
  • Avoid abbreviations and acronyms. Spell it out. Avoid characters like $ and & and @ and %
  • Think about Search Engine Optimization. Will users search for keywords included in your Title?

Summary/Description Field

  • Always include a summary. It should be short, no more than 150-160 characters (3 to 4 lines) for search engines, and summarize the content of the Page, Event, or News Item.
  • For News Items, the summary appears in our news feeds and e-newsletters. Consider this a "teaser" to get people to click on the article. Do not duplicate the first sentence of the body text in the summary.
  • Again think about Search Engine Optimization. It is also the Google meta description.
  • Avoid clever or "cute" marketing lingo. What will users search for?
  • Note - the text in this field cannot be formatted. This means no links, no italicizing, no bolding, and no breaks or paragraph returns.

Lead Images

Add lead images whenever possible (if they're related to the content), especially for News Items.

Tips:

  • Use landscape (horizontal) instead of portrait (vertical) images.
  • Use photos rather than line drawings or "clip art". Do not use images of flyers, brochure, or printed materials.
  • Remember that lead images also appear in News feeds and e-newsletters, and in social media when your content is shared.
  • Add a caption that describes the image. Do not include "Image of…" or "Picture of…" in your captions.

Body Text

Using appropriate formatting provides structure for your page, which makes it easier for users to scan your content, and allows search engines to better understand your content.

Headings, Subheadings, Paragraphs

  • Select the proper text style from the drop-down box in the editor toolbar.  Normal paragraph is the default style of text.
  • Use Headings and Subheadings to create sections of a page. Do not just insert bold text as a heading.
  • Always start with Headings. If no subheadings are used, plone will downsize the Heading font size automatically to subheading font size. Be sure to select "Heading" from the drop-down menu.
  • Subheadings should only be used if it is under a pre-existing Heading.
  • Discreet is smaller text that is used as a caption for tables or images. It can be used at the end of a page to reference related material that is not linked.

Lists

In the body tool bar, select either numbered list or unordered list. Note: always hit the return/enter key to get the next list item. This keeps the list as one entity instead of creating a separate list for each item (bad web practice)

Numbered Lists

  • Avoid numbered lists unless the order/sequence of the items is important.

Bulleted Lists

  • Great for web writing! Use bulleted lists instead of "inline" comma/semicolon delimited lists.
  • Use to make text stand out and easier to scan.

Linking to an Email Address

  • If presenting an email address, be sure to make it an active link.
  • Highlight the text that should be the link, choose the globe icon button (External link) in the tool bar.
  • In the pop-up window, remove http:// and add "mailto: then add email address (example: mailto:abc123@psu.edu). Should then look like: abc123@psu.edu.

Hyperlinks

Examples:

Other Body Text Best Practices

  • When using abbreviations or acronyms, always use the full term first, followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis.  Then, use the abbreviation for all following instances. For example, "The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ..."
  • Never use ALL CAPS to highlight text. This is harder for sighted users to read, and screen readers will S-P-E-L-L out the word rather than reading it. Instead, use bold font or "Call-out" from the drop-down box if you need to highlight body text. But, don't overuse.

    Here's an example of the "Call-out" style.

  • Avoid blank lines between paragraphs or at the end of pages.
  • Use one space after a period. Additional spaces are read as "&nsbp" by screen readers.
  • Spell out words. Examples: Use "County" and not "Co"; use September and not "Sept"
  • Be consistent with time.  Preferred method is p.m. and a.m., but pm and PM are acceptable if the method is consistent throughout the webpage.
  • Never use "PSU" to refer to the university.  Instead, use "Penn State" as a shorter version of "The  Pennsylvania State University."
  • Don't use spaces to format content (e.g., trying to center text on the page). It will look different on all devices.
  • Tables are only used for tabular data, and not formatting. If you are trying to create a table for tabular data - use the table creator button in the tool bar. For moving existing tabular data from Excel or Word, use Table-maker (please ask us about this tool)
  • Do not add a Discrimination Statement. Links to legal policies are already included in the footer.

Portable Document Format (PDF) Files

Do not add web content in PDF format. Add Plone Pages, News Items, or Events depending on your content. The only exception is Forms.

Advantages of web content versus a PDF include:

  • Mobile friendly
  • Accessible
  • More searchable
  • Users can share via social media
  • Part of our website instead of a separate file
  • Properly branded
  • Can track traffic with Google Analytics

Copying Text from Microsoft Programs

Do not copy/paste text from a Microsoft programs such as Word or Outlook. It pastes bad HTML into the web code that changes how the text appears on the page.

Instead, first paste the text into a pure text editor like Notepad (on your PC computer = Start >all programs > accessories > Notepad). Then, copy the text from Notepad and paste it into Plone.

You will need to reformat the text (headings, subheadings, lists and links) but the web code is "clean"

Posting Author Information

Do not list author information in the Description or Body Text.  Instead, you can use Plone's built-in functionality to display the author information in a standard format at the end of the article.

To set the author for content:

  • While you are in "Edit", click on the "Ownership or Author" tab in the second top tool bar.
  • Enter the author's information in the "Contact Information" field.
  • If the author is part of our website directory, just add their Penn State user ID (e.g., abc123).
  • If it is a non-Penn State person, add information in pipe delineated format.

    Example:

    Joe Smith|President, Angel Alpacas|joe@angelalpacas.com

Adding an Expiration Date to News

Much of our news items are dated information such as the promotion of an upcoming event or deadline. Plone allows for you to set an expiration date so that the news item will automatically disappear from public view once the event or deadline passes.

To set an expiration date:

  • While you are in "Edit", click on the "Dates" tab in the second top tool bar.
  • In the Expiration Date box, select appropriate, year, month and day. We recommend the day following the event which means at 1 am on the day following the event or deadline, it disappears. If the expiration date is more stringent, you can also choose a time of day. For example: Deadline to apply is 5 pm, Friday April 1. (you can make the expiration time 5 pm)