MU Extension editorial style and usage guide
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Why have a style and usage guide?
Style is not about right and wrong; it's about consistency and efficiency. While many elements of grammar can be debated, style is a publisher's collection of decisions about grammar, punctuation and design. Consistent style makes our pages more credible, usable and readable. Style allows us to concentrate on content rather than style decisions.
On the Web and in print, MU Extension primarily follows Associated Press style. As an MU employee, you may access this style guide using your pawprint and password at http://proxy.mul.missouri.edu:2048/login?url=http://www.apstylebook.com/missouri/. MU Extension's house style, found on this page, overrules the AP Stylebook when there is a difference.
For questions and to suggest additions to our ever-evolving style guide, contact DeeAnna Adkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Style and usage entries
University of Missouri Extension
The formal name for the systemwide function that represents the extension mission of the University of Missouri. MU Extension is the preferred second reference for programs based on the Columbia campus and at county extension centers and may be used as a first reference when space is limited. Example: A complete list of seminar sites is available on the MU Extension website at extension.missouri.edu. UMKC Extension, Missouri S&T Extension and UM-St. Louis Extension are the preferred second references for programs based on these campuses. Capitalize the word "Extension" when it is used as part of a formal name, such as "University of Missouri Extension Association;" lowercase in all other instances, such as "the extension program." Do not form acronyms by using "E" for Extension, such as MUE or UME, in external or internal communications. The preferred way to show our Web address is: extension.missouri.edu
abbreviations and acronyms
Avoid abbreviations and acronyms when possible. Spell out program names — the public is not as familiar with most of our program names as we are. If the name will be mentioned multiple times on the page, then spell out the program name on first reference then put the acronym in parentheses after the spelled-out version. Example: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set guidelines for ….
Spell out all words such as "through" and "with."
If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone's credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as Sally Ray, who has a bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctorate in English.
- Use an apostrophe in bachelor's, master's.
- Use such abbreviations as BA, MA and PhD only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome.
- The exception: When identifying MU alumni in a profile or story about them, use this form, set off by commas, after the person's name: Bill Doe, BS '95, and Sally Ray, MA '04. When they have multiple degrees from different years, use this form: Sally Ray, BS '78, MS '81. For multiple degrees in the same year, use this form: Bill Doe, BA, BJ '92.
- When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: Bill Doe, PhD, spoke to the class.
- Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow the name with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference, as in Dr. Bill Doe, MD.
- Do not capitalize degrees unless abbreviated: Bill Doe, MA '95, serves as president of his local Optimist Club or Bill Doe received a master's degree in journalism from XYZ College.
(Source: MU Office of Publications and Alumni Communication)
Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chancellor, chairman, etc., when they precede a name. Lowercase elsewhere. (Source: AP Stylebook)
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires public agencies to make their Web pages accessible to people with disabilities. All users should be able to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Many of our MU Extension styles and guidelines were decided because of accessibility issues. Some of these styles include colors to use and to avoid, font size, fonts, heading hierarchies, all caps, underline and link text. To learn more, see www.Section508.gov.
Make links to download the Adobe Reader text only. The technology is common enough that the graphic link to download the reader is unnecessary.
Always use figures. The girl is 15 years old; the law is 8 years old; the 101-year-old house. When the context does not require years or years old, the figure is presumed to be years.
Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun.
- A 5-year-old boy, but the boy is 5 years old.
- The boy, 7, has a sister, 10.
- The woman, 26, has a daughter 2 months old.
- The race is for 3-year-olds.
- The woman is in her 30s (no apostrophe).
(Source: AP Stylebook)
There is rarely a need to use all caps. ALL CAPS FORM A BLOCK OF LETTERS THAT ARE HARD TO DISTINGUISH FROM EACH OTHER BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL THE SAME HEIGHT AND HAVE NO ASCENDERS AND DESCENDERS while lowercase and mixed case words have both ascenders and descenders and thus have more distinctive word shapes. Use italic or bold for emphasis.
Added Nov. 2, 2010
Alt text, the alternative text used by screen readers and text readers to describe an image on a Web page, is required for accessibility and useful for search engine optimization of your page. When writing alt text, imagine how you might briefly describe the image to someone over the phone. Keep alt text short and meaningful — a good rule of thumb is to keep length to fewer than 50 characters (around 10 words) and no more than 140 characters (around 25 words). Mention in the alt text that the image is a photograph or drawing if it helps convey the meaning. If the image is also a link to another page, mention that in the alt text.
Useful alt text: MU Extension logo
Less useful alt text: logo
Useful alt text for the image shown below: Pie chart of greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector: industry 29%, transportation 28%, commercial 17%, residential 17% and agriculture 9%.
Less useful alt text for the same image: Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector.
Do not use an ampersand in place of "and."
Added Oct. 31, 2010
When linking to audio files for either radio station or customer use, be sure to include the following along with the audio file in MP3 format: format, date recorded, topic, length, and a full script for accessibility.
For county Web pages: Place the audio files in your county documents folder or in your region’s documents folder if more than one county will link to them.
background images and color
Do not add background images or background colors to pages.
Added March 21, 2010
One word in all references. Also smartphone is one word for an advanced cellphone that allows for email, Web browsing and downloadable applications. (Source: AP Stylebook)
centered text and justified text
Added Nov. 2, 2010; modified Feb. 23, 2011
In general, use the default left-justified text settings. Do not center headings, lists, captions or paragraphs. Do not center text to set it off or draw attention to it. This disrupts the patterns of the page that are set with styles and decreases readability. Do not right-justify or fully justify text on the Web.
Modified Oct. 31, 2010
If at all possible, don't use the words "click here" in your links. People recognize link color conventions, so there's no need to tell them to click. Also, people using screen readers can hear a list of links on the page, but the context of the links is lost. To keep the context, make the link text tell the user where the link will take them.
Correct link text: More information about style
Incorrect link text: Click here for more information about style.
Correct link text: For more information, visit the MU Extension style guide.
Incorrect link text: For MU Extension's style, click here.
clip art, animation and audio clips
Unless they add useful information to the page, avoid the use of clip art, animation and audio clips.
If you need to add contact information at the bottom of a Web page, use the following format. Note that the name is linked to the person's staff page, and the email address is a mailto: link.
Spell out county unless it is abbreviated to save space in a table.
courtesy titles and name on second reference
Refer to both men and women by first and last name, without courtesy titles, on first reference: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. Refer to both men and women by last name, without courtesy titles, in subsequent references. Use the courtesy titles Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. only in direct quotations or after first reference when a woman specifically requests it: for example, where a woman prefers to be known as Mrs. Smith or Ms. Smith.
When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers and sisters, use the first and last name, without courtesy title.
In cases where a person's gender is not clear from the first name or from the story's context, indicate the gender by using he or she in subsequent references. (Source: AP Stylebook)
Always use Arabic figures, without st, nd, rd or th. See months for examples and punctuation guidelines. (Source: AP Stylebook)
default fonts, colors and headings
For Web pages, use the default fonts, headings, colors, etc. These font sizes and color combinations have been usability tested and are used throughout the MU Extension site. Using the set hierarchy of headings and not adding "noise" to the page with different colors and fonts creates a recognizable pattern for users who are navigating the site.
The following headings (shown in the correct sizes and colors below) are available in the MU Extension stylesheet and are accessible through the WebTool content management system:
Each menu page (and subpage) that you create must have an H1 heading at the top of your body content. This tells visitors, search engines and adaptive computing browsers (i.e. screen readers) that this is the beginning of the main content for the page. The H1 heading should match the text of the navigation link that brings you to the page.
Use figures and spell out inches, feet, yards, etc., to indicate depth, height, length and width. Hyphenate adjectival forms before nouns.
- He is 5 feet 6 inches tall, the 5-foot-6-inch man, the 5-foot man, the basketball team signed a 7-footer.
- The car is 17 feet long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet high. The rug is 9 feet by 12 feet, the 9-by-12 rug.
- The storm left 5 inches of snow.
- The building has 6,000 square feet of floor space.
(Source: AP Stylebook)
Added March 21, 2010
Acceptable in all references for electronic mail. (Source: AP Stylebook)
email addresses on the Web
Spell out the email address and put the mailto: link on the email address rather than on the person's name. This enables people to contact someone by email even if they've printed the page, accessed the page from a public or shared computer, or don't have email that automatically opens when they click a mailto: link.
For more information, contact DeeAnna Adkins at email@example.com or 573-882-8199.
em dash (—)
Modified June 6, 2012
Dashes can be used sparingly to set off material in the middle of a sentence or for emphasis when either a pause longer than a comma is needed or there is a sharp turn of thought. They can also be used to set off information in a list. In these cases, use an em dash with spaces on either side.
To insert the dash in a Web page using the WebTool content management system, either use Insert special character in the toolbar of the WYSIWYG editor or insert "—" in the code (don't include the quotation marks).
To insert an em dash in Microsoft Word, use one of the following methods on a Windows computer (on a Mac, press [Opt]+[Shift]+-):
- Press [Ctrl]+[Alt]+Num- (Num- means you must use the minus sign (-) on the numeric keypad).
- Hold down the [Alt] key and type 0151 on the numeric keypad.
- Choose Symbol from the Insert menu, click the Special Characters tab, highlight the em dash, and click Insert.
Do not use a single hyphen (-) or double hyphens (--) to indicate an em dash.
The club's leaders — Jackie, Tom and Darlene — were all present at the meeting.
Don't delay your registration — this course fills up quickly.
exclamation point (!)
Use an exclamation point to express a high degree of surprise, incredulity or other strong emotion. Avoid overuse. End mildly exclamatory sentences with a period. And definitely use only one! (Source: AP Stylebook)
Modified June 6, 2012
file format and linking to documents
For faster loading and accessibility, it is desirable to build Web pages rather than link to downloadable documents. If there is a reason a document should be downloadable, such as ease of printing, PDF documents are preferred over Microsoft Word or Excel documents because they are more accessible to the public.
If you are linking to a document other than a Web page, give the file type (e.g., PDF, XLS, DOC, DOCX, PPT) at the end of the link in parentheses. Make sure the file type is part of the link, which will make it accessible and conform to Section 508 Accessibility Standards.
Examples (link color added for demonstration):
If you are linking only to a document:
2009 Buchanan County annual report (PDF)
2009 Buchanan County annual report (DOC)
If you are linking to more than one type of document, put the link to the first file on the text (in the example directly below, the link to the first file would be on the text "2009 Buchanan County annual report (PDF)") and the file type and the link to the second file on the second file type (in the link directly below, the link to the second file would be on the text "DOC"). Separate the links with a pipe character, which is located above the backslash on most keyboards:
2009 Buchanan County annual report (PDF) | DOC
If the information is available on a Web page and also in another format(s), put the link to the Web page on the text, then link the file types to the downloadable documents (separate the links with a pipe character, which is located above the backslash on most keyboards):
2009 Buchanan County annual report | PDF
2009 Buchanan County annual report | PDF | PPT
If the PDF form is both fillable and printable (usually the fillable version can also be the printable version), the style is the same as the normal PDF style:
Camp registration form (PDF)
That said, if you know your audience and think they won't realize that the form is fillable without indicating that it is, use the following style (and follow the other rules using the pipe if there's a Word version, etc.).:
Camp registration form (fillable PDF)
guide, guidesheet or guide sheet?
Always say guide or publication if referring to a guide generically. We no longer use the term guidesheet.
Only capitalize the first word in all heading levels, including links that serve as headings, unless the word is a proper noun or the specific name of a branded program.
links and page headings
If you link to another Web page or document, make sure the link text matches the text when you get to the page or open the document. For example, don't make a link that says "Accounting procedures" go to a page with the heading "Financial procedures."
links to internal and external pages
Open links to other MU Extension pages in the same tab or window. If links go to pages outside MU Extension's websites, then open them in a new tab or window. To set a link to open in a new tab or window using the CK Editor toolbar inside the WebTool content management system, choose the Link icon, then choose the Target tab, then choose New Window (_blank) from the dropdown menu.
links and referrals to external websites
Delivering content from the University of Missouri is our foremost goal, but to serve clients and give them thorough answers to their questions, it is sometimes necessary to refer them to other sources. This practice should be secondary and employed judiciously. MU Extension faculty members represent the interests of the university and are responsible for the quality of information disseminated.
When referring clients to non-MU websites through a link on an MU Extension website, a URL printed in a handout or newsletter, or verbally over the phone, quality is paramount over quantity.
Guidelines and practices:
Linking to external sources is recommended only as a supplement to our own material and is prioritized by:
- other land-grant universities;
- valid government sources (e.g., www.mypyramid.gov or www.consumer.gov);
- research-based nonprofit institutions (e.g., American Heart Association); and
- other sources only if they are carefully screened and deemed to be research-based, unbiased information in a context that does not promote a specific product, point of view, religion, political agenda, etc.
Before referring clients to an external URL, always review the site carefully and only give out the URL if it contains information you would be willing to endorse.
If you cannot provide information from MU sources, other land-grant sources or reviewed government sources, refer the client to a search engine to do their own research.
Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone. When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.
- January 1972 was a cold month.
- Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month.
- His birthday is May 8.
- Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date.
- She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3, when the accident occurred.
In tables, use these three-letter forms without a period: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.
(Source: AP Stylebook)
A numeral is a figure, letter, word or group of words expressing a number.
Roman numerals use the letters I, V, X, L, C, D and M. Use Roman numerals for wars and to show personal sequence for animals and people: World War II, Native Dancer II, King George VI, Pope John XXIII.
Arabic numerals use the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0. Use Arabic forms unless Roman numerals are specifically required.
The figures 1, 2, 10, 101, etc. and the corresponding words — one, two, ten, one hundred one, etc. — are called cardinal numbers. The term ordinal number applies to 1st, 2nd, 10th, 101st, first, second, tenth, one hundred first, etc.
Follow these guidelines in using numerals:
Sentence start: Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence. If necessary, recast the sentence. There is one exception — a numeral that identifies a calendar year.
- Wrong: 993 freshmen entered the college last year.
- Right: Last year 993 freshmen entered the college.
- Right: 1976 was a very good year.
Casual uses: Spell out casual expressions: A thousand times no! Thanks a million. He walked a quarter of a mile.
Proper names: Use words or numerals according to an organization's practice: 3M, Twentieth Century Fund, Big Ten.
Figures or words? For ordinals:
- Spell out first through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location: first base, the First Amendment, he was first in line. Starting with 10th use figures.
- Use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. when the sequence has been assigned in forming names. The principal examples are geographic, military and political designations such as 1st Ward, 7th Fleet and 1st Sgt. See examples in the separate entries listed below.
Some punctuation and usage examples:
- Act 1, Scene 2
- a 5-year-old girl
- 3 ounces
- 4-foot fence
- 3-week-old war, but three-week war
- "The president's speech lasted 18 1/2 minutes," she said.
- DC-10 but 747B
- a 5-4 court decision
- 2nd District Court
- the 1980s, the '80s
- the House voted 230-205. (Fewer than 1,000 votes.)
- Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford 40,827,292 to 39,146,157. (More than 1,000 votes.)
- Carter defeated Ford 10 votes to 2 votes in Little Junction. (To avoid confusion with ratio.)
- 5 cents, $1.05, $650,000, $2.45 million
- No. 3 choice, but Public School 3
- 0.6 percent, 1 percent, 6.5 percent
- a pay increase of 12-15 percent. Or: a pay increase of between 12 and 15 percent. Also: from $12 million to $14 million
- a ratio of 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio
- 1 in 4 voters
- a 4-3 score
- minus 10, zero, 60 degrees
Other uses: For uses not covered by these listings: Spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above. Typical examples: They had three sons and two daughters. They had a fleet of 10 station wagons and two buses.
In a series: Apply the appropriate guidelines: They had 10 dogs, six cats and 97 hamsters. They had four four-room houses, 10 three-room houses and 12 10-room houses.
(Source: AP Stylebook)
See examples under "times" entry.
In general, for both the Web and print, only color-correct, crop and re-size images. Only use image-altering features such as beveling, blurring, etc., with a useful purpose, which will be extremely rarely.
Sizes: Images will generally load faster and look better smaller than the maximum sizes listed below (especially the maximum size for the "County without calendar" template).
- Maximum image width for a photo in the middle column of a template that includes the calendar: 360 pixels
- Maximum image width for a photo in a template that does not include the calendar: 560 pixels
ETCS has provided GIMP image editing software on office computers. For more information, see the tutorial on resizing photos with GIMP.
You must obtain written permission to use an individual's image in all publications, including Web documents and videos. For the forms and more information, see the Copyright, Fair Use and Photos guidelines.
Added Oct. 31, 2010
You must obtain and keep on file permission to use any copyrighted photo from another organization. If in doubt about whether it is available for free use, ask for permission.
photos of faculty and staff on content pages on the Web
Added Oct. 31, 2010
To place a photo of an employee on a content page, link to the person's directory photograph, which will be of an appropriate size for the page. Find the photo through your browser in the following directory: http://extension.missouri.edu/uoedir/photos/. Find the photo in the list, click on the photo, then copy the URL in your browser to make the correct link.
Added Jan. 25, 2011
The term registration is more appropriate for most small courses or meetings with only one registration period. Only use preregistration if you have an early registration period and a regular registration period.
If you are linking to an MU Extension publication from a Web page, give the publication number followed by a comma and the full title of the publication as the link. Always link to the Web page version of the publication rather than the PDF version so that users will still be oriented within the website and have navigational links on the page. To be clear that the link is to a publication, refer to the publication as an MU Extension publication. If you have a list of several publications, make a list that is preceded by text such as: "For more information, see the following MU Extension publications."
- MU Extension publication G9433, Methods for Counting Quail on Your Property
- For more information, see MU Extension publication EMW1011, Family Disaster Plans.
Follow these guidelines:
Standing alone: Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone in textual material.
Eight not abbreviated: The names of eight states are never abbreviated in text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.
Punctuation: Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence: He was traveling from Nashville, Tenn., to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, N.M. She said Cook County, Ill., was Mayor Daley's stronghold.
When abbreviations are required, use the state abbreviations listed below:
- In conjunction with the name of a city, town, village or military base.
- In short-form listings of party affiliation: D-Ala., R-Mont.
Use the two-letter Postal Service abbreviations (in parentheses below) only with full addresses that include a ZIP code.
|Ala. (AL)||Alaska (AK)||Ariz. (AZ)||Ark. (AR)||Calif. (CA)||Colo. (CO)||Conn. (CT)|
|Del. (DE)||Fla. (FL)||Ga. (GA)||Hawaii (HI)||Idaho (ID)||Ill. (IL)||Iowa (IA)|
|Ind. (IN)||Kan. (KS)||Ky. (KY)||La. (LA)||Maine (ME)||Md. (MD)||Mass. (MA)|
|Mich. (MI)||Minn. (MN)||Miss. (MS)||Mo. (MO)||Mont. (MT)||Neb. (NE)||Nev. (NV)|
|N.H. (NH)||N.J. (NJ)||N.M. (NM)||N.Y. (NY)||N.C. (NC)||N.D. (ND)||Ohio (OH)|
|Okla. (OK)||Ore. (OR)||Pa. (PA)||R.I. (RI)||S.C. (SC)||S.D. (SD)||Tenn. (TN)|
|Texas (TX)||Utah (UT)||Vt. (VT)||Va. (VA)||Wash. (WA)||W.Va. (WV)||Wis. (WI)|
|Wyo. (WY)||Also: District of Columbia (DC)|
Use tables only to format tabular data, not to format text or format a page.
Use figures. The form: 212-621-1500. For international numbers use 011 (from the United States), the country code, the city code and the telephone number: 011-44-20-7535-1515. Use hyphens, not periods.
The form for toll-free numbers: 800-111-1000.
If extension numbers are needed, use a comma to separate the main number from the extension: 212-621-1500, ext. 2. (Source: AP Stylebook)
Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Avoid such redundancies as 10 a.m. this morning, 10 p.m. tonight or 10 p.m. Monday night. Use 10 a.m. or 10 p.m. Monday, etc.
The construction 4 o'clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred. (Source: AP Stylebook)
For county office hours, the following format is preferred. Use a semicolon to separate days of the week when you are open different times on different days.
- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
- 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday
- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to noon Friday
titles of MU Extension publications
Capitalize all words except articles and prepositions (unless prepositions are four letters or more, such as "from" and "about").
titles of people
In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual's name. (Source: AP Stylebook)
Do not underline text. Underlined text on the Web can be confused with hyperlinked text. Use bold or italic for emphasis in print and on the Web.
A location on the World Wide Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address. Also, webcam, webcast and webmaster. But as a short form and in terms with separate words, the Web, Web page and Web feed. (Source: AP Stylebook)
Use figures: The baby weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces. She had a 9-pound, 7-ounce boy. (Source: AP Stylebook)
Use figures, without commas: 1975. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with a comma: Feb. 14, 1987, is the target date. Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1890s, the 1800s. Do not abbreviate the year with an apostrophe (i.e., use 2010 rather than '10). (Source: AP Stylebook)