Style Guide

​​​​​​​​​​​​Formatting guidelines for page text and hyperlinks

Text formatting

Bullets

A bulleted list is simply a more visual way of separating a series of items. 

  • ONLY use a colon to set off the list if the introductory phrase is a complete sentence. Otherwise, don't punctuate.
  • ​Do not use and, or​, commas or semicolons at the end of each item. 
  • Use parallel grammar.
  • Use the same verb tense, person (first-, second- or third-person) and number (singular vs. plural) for each bulleted item.
  • Capitalize the first word of each item only if the item is a complete sentence.
  • End each item with punctuation (period, question mark, etc.) only if the item is a complete sentence.

Headlines

Per the Associated Press (page 117 of the 2014 AP Stylebook), use sentence case for headlines, page headings and paragraph headings. "Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. Exception: First word after colon is always upper-case in headlines."

  • Exa​mple: City Council to vote on budget at tonight’s meeting.

Paragraph spacing

Use block style: single-spacing, left-justified, no indenting of the first line, and a hard return between paragraphs.

  • TIP: In Microsoft Word, Outlook or SharePoint, click "shift" and "return" at the same time to create a single space between lines.

Sentence spacing

Put only one space (not two!) between sentences. Here's why:

​​Hyp​erlink standards

General guidelines

  • Embed URLs into the most relevant words or phrases. Avoid "click here."

  • Avoid embedding links into entire sentences or long phrases. 

  • ​For email addresses, type the full email address on the page, and then embed it with "mailto: and embed the email address​. This provides an option for users who are at a public computer to copy and paste the address into their email client without launching a default client. Internet Explorer automatically embeds the email address. Chrome, Firefox and Safari requires you to manually embed the email address.​​ Example: Contact the mayor at mayor@charlottenc.gov​ for more information.​​​

Link usage best practices

  • Use hyperlinks to provide supplemental information such as definitions of terms and abbreviations, reference information and background reading.  Example: What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid

  • Group all minor, illustrative, parenthetic or footnote links at the bottom of the document where they are available but not distracting to the reader.

  • Outside links can add credibility. They show that the authors have done their homework and are not afraid to let readers visit other sites.​ 

  • City policy excludes from its website all commercial advertising, links and promotional material that does not serve or promote a public purpose of the City. View the City's linking policy.

Linking to large files

Clearly notify users of links that open documents that are more than 5MB by listing the file size parenthetically to the right of the file name. Example: View the Urban Land Institute presentation​ (11MB)

Linking to sites outside CharlotteNC.gov

View the City's linking policy​ to learn more about guidelines used to determine when links are allowed for inclusion on CharlotteNC.gov. Per ADA requirements, links that point to sites outside of CharlotteNC.gov will automatically generate an icon  that indicates the user is leaving our site.

Setting links to open in new windows

Per ADA requirements, users must be alerted if a link opens a new window, so use this feature sparingly. Always notify the user that the link will open a new window. View the ADA guidelines (opens in a new window)​

Examples of hyperlink usage

Why? Redundant; screen readers provide the word "link" automatically.


Write this: Apply for benefits

Don't write this: Follow this link to apply for benefits

Why? Unnecessary/wordy


Write this: Find out more about Medicare

Don't write this: More information

Why? Links need to make sense out of context


Write this: Visit CharlotteNC.gov

Don't write this: http://charlottenc.gov​

Why? Complete URLs are not "human-readable" by screen readers​​​​