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Common content mistakes – revisited

We’ve previously written about common content mistakes made on the web, but we thought it would be a good idea to provide an updated list.

Below is a list of common mistakes our team sees coordinators make on a regular basis. This post isn’t intended to shame, but to cast some light on how you can keep an eye out for some of the mistakes you may be likely to make when writing for the web.

Slashes

Do not use slashes on the web. They can cause issues in terms of accessibility, and especially for assistive technologies like screen readers. Instead, use commas, “or” or “and”.

Example:

  • Incorrect: You can choose to study English and/or French.
  • Correct: You can choose to study English, French or both.

Example:

  • Incorrect: The kitchen/lounge is open 24/7.
  • Correct: The kitchen and lounge are open all hours.

Dates

Dates should be formatted by: day, month, year. Do not abbreviate day names.

  • For example: Monday 10 March 2014

For date ranges, write out the full date in both instances:

  • Monday 10 March 2014 to Friday 14 March 2014

Times

Times should be written using the following format:

  • 1pm
  • 1.23pm
  • 12 noon
  • midnight.

Avoid unnecessary zeros in times (for example, 11.00am).

Only use the 24-hour clock for pages primarily aimed at international users.

Phone numbers

The term ‘phone’ must be used (not ‘telephone or ‘tel’). Never include a fax number.

Phone numbers should use the following format:

  • University phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2222
  • University phone (with extension): +44 (0)1334 46 2222, extension 14000
  • External phone (including mobile): +44 (0)1234 567890

For University phone numbers, separate the four-digit extension code with a space to make it easier for internal users to identify the extension number.

For external international phone numbers, use the appropriate country’s format.

Avoid two or more contact numbers for the same contact. Choose a single number to make it easier for users – asking them to decide which number to pick is unnecessary. For example, you would never write a phone number as: +44 (0)1334 46 7892/8940.

Capitals

Only use capitals when necessary (at the start of sentences and for proper nouns). Likewise, page titles and headings should always be written in sentence case. Unnecessary capitals can be difficult to read online, particularly for those with accessibility needs.

Examples of what not to do:

  • How To Apply
  • HOW TO APPLY
  • Students with a Disability will have full access to Kitchen Staff and Rooms within their Hall of Residence.

Parentheses

Do not use parentheses to pluralise words. They can cause issues in terms of accessibility, and especially for assistive technologies like screen readers.

Example:

  • Incorrect: Read more about your course(s).
  • Correct: Read more about your course.

Links

Anchor text

For usability and accessibility, hyperlinks should be placed on descriptive anchor text. For anchor text:

  • Never write click here.
  • Avoid using the same anchor text for different links.
  • Keep it short.
  • Do not display the URL.

Example:

Email addresses

Not every computer has an email client installed. Therefore, write email addresses in full so someone could copy and paste it into an application.

Example:

House style

All of the rules above, and more, can be found in the University’s house style. The house style keeps content on the website consistent and accessible.

The house style covers most content issues related to the University. For anything not specifically stated in the house style, use the Guardian’s house style as a guide.

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