Editorial Guide for UUA.org
It's About Consistency
Which is correct: email or e-mail? How do you abbreviate Unitarian Universalist? If you're creating web pages, you'll probably run into questions like these. Editorial guides provide a set of standards to use when you're not sure how a word, term, or name should be spelled, punctuated, or referred to.
This UUA.org style guide provides consistency so readers won't be distracted from your message by variations in style. Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations may want to follow similar styles.
A house guide defines styles and practices unique to the publisher, company, or office generating the publication, and determines consistent choices where multiple styles are correct. If a standard is not defined in our house styles, then we defer to the standards outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style, Fifteenth Edition, and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.
- Unitarian Universalist Association. On first use, spell out the complete three-word name. On second and additional uses, refer to UUA.
- UUA.org. Always refer to the UUA website as UUA.org, not http://www.uua.org or www.uua.org.
- UUA Committees, Congregations, Departments, Programs. On first reference, use the full name with the shorthand reference in parentheses, as in: "Lifespan Faith Development (LFD). "With the exception of "religious education" you may use the acronym on second use. Capitalize staff groups, districts, committees, and program names only when used in full: "Southeast District" or "Tapestry of Faith." Congregation names with Unitarian Universalist in the title should be abbreviated to UU when space is an issue (for example "First Unitarian Universalist Church" would be "First UU Church").
- Abbreviations. Use abbreviations with care. Use only widely recognized and understood abbreviations, such as: U.S., Ph.D., M.S., NASA. Omit spaces and periods between letters when possible. Don't use apostrophes for plural abbreviations: "Only Ph.D.s are invited to the gathering." With the exception of degrees, do not use abbreviations in headings.
- Acronyms. Spell out an acronym the first time you use it in the body of your page text, and follow it with the acronym in parenthesis, as in: "the Office of International Studies (OIS)." Remember that even internal publications may be read by external audiences. The same acronym in a different context or readership can mean very different things. Don't leave any potential reader in the dark about what you mean. Don't use acronyms in headings. Don't use punctuation in acronyms. Page titles can include acronyms if it is spelled out in the first few lines of the page.
One exception is LGBTQ Ministries, which should be written as "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Ministries (LGBTQ Ministries)." (Note: When spelled out, LGBTQ should follow the format of the surrounding text in terms of title case or lower case.)
- Addresses. Abbreviate the words street, avenue, boulevard if they appear after a numbered address: "50 S. Court St." or "South Court Street."
- Alignment. All text shall be left-aligned. As the Web Style Guide on Legibility notes, “Left-justified text is the most legible option for web pages because the left margin is even and predictable and the right margin is irregular.”
- All Caps. Do not write text in all capital letters—don't "shout" at your readers and reduce reading comprehension. Instead, use headers, italics, or (a moderate amount of) bold text for emphasis.
- a.m. and p.m. Always lower case and include punctuation.
- Anchor Links. Within-page links are not used on UUA.org (with some behind-the-scenes exceptions for screen-reader accessibility), because anchor links break user expectation, are bad for accessibility, and because shorter pages are better for SEO (search engine optimization). Use headers and white space call out different page sections. Split especially long content into multiple pages within a section that includes its own navigation.
- Bible. Capitalize this word when you mean the book used by clergy; use lower case if referring to a favorite source: "Elements of Style is my bible."
- Capitalize Principles, Purposes, and Sources when referring to specific Unitarian Universalist formulations.
- If you make reference to the Unitarian Universalist Association by referring to "the Association," capitalize it. Use lower case to make generic references to boards, committees, etc.
- Do not capitalize job titles unless they are followed by the person's name.
- Do not capitalize abstractions such as earth, salvation, etc.
- Centering. We do not center text on UUA.org, as uneven left margins reduce reading comprehension.
- Coming Soon. Read Don't Make "Coming Soon" or "Under Construction" Pages.
- Use the serial comma: "apples, oranges, and bananas" rather than "apples, oranges and bananas."
- Place a comma before and after the following, when they appear in the middle of a sentence:
- a year, if it follows a month and a date. Example: I was born on November 9, 1951, in New Haven, Connecticut.
- a state, if it follows a city of county name. Example: I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 9, 1951.
- Dashes. Use the en-dash (–) between values; the minus sign (-) as a hyphen to connect words; and the em-dash (—)—with no spaces—inside of text.
- Editor in Chief. Refer to this individual as "editor."
- Email Addresses. Always use a department or program alias (like web [at] uua [dot] org) instead of a personal email address (like jsmith [at] uua [dot] org). Email links must look like email addresses, to alert the user that their email software will be opened.
- First Parish. A parish is another name for a church. Proper use would be "First Parish in Bedford" not "First Parish Church in Bedford."
- Gender-Neutral Language. Gender-Neutral Language. Language can be a major barrier to inclusion and can contribute to unconscious heterosexism. Use of inclusive language is always preferred, where the writer takes care to include examples and activities that include references to the lives of people of all sexual orientations, races, genders, etc. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Ministries suggests avoiding the use of "he or she" in order to keep language neutral and inclusive of people of all genders (one option is to use plural language).
- Headings. Use headings to add white space to your page. Make headers meaningful to help readers and search engines. Page titles and headings should be capitalized like book titles, with no punctuation, or written in complete sentences with punctuation. Headings should not be links, and they should descend in strict order. Read Section Headings on Web Pages.
- Horizontal Rules. The HR element represents a paragraph-level thematic break, such as separating different topics within a section of prose, or between scenes in a novel. It may not be used for decorative purposes. It is always preferable to use a header (with meaningful text) to separate sections instead of using a horizontal rule.
- Image Captions. Image captions should be capitalized like book titles, with no punctuation, or written in complete sentences with punctuation.
- Indenting. Do not use multiple spaces to indent text. Do not indent text in an attempt to add emphasis outside of a poem; instead, use a header, bold, or italics. UUA staff: Text in poems, where display is integral to the meaning of the piece, may be indented with the options available in the Styles dropdown.
- Lay Leader. Not layleader.
- Links. Use English for link text (not URLs), but avoid repetitive, meaningless language like, "click here." Avoid punctuation (like quote marks or periods) in your link. Keep linked text as brief as possible while remaining meaningful. Include text to indicate non-standard links (to video, PDFs, etc.). Don't open new windows. Read Make Web Links Meaningful.
- Lists. Use bulleted lists for collections of unordered items and numbered lists for ordered steps.
- Midsize. No hyphen.
- Meadville Lombard Theological School. No hyphen or virgule is used in this name.
- Months. Don’t abbreviate months when they do not immediately precede a date. Example: "The UUA's annual growth conference occurs in February." In spaces where space is limited (like a link in the Related Content box), abbreviating months with a date is acceptable: "Registration Deadline: Feb. 10."
- Spell out numbers from one to one hundred and multiples of one hundred. All others should be numerals (units of measure (4 inches), time (3:00 p.m.), page numbers (page 5), percentages (7 percent), money ($63 million), and proportions (3 to 1 odds). If you are referring to military regiments, using numerals and endings including “nd” or “th” is always correct. (Example: "44th Light Cavalry, U.S. Army").
- Spell out a number at the beginning of a sentence and when using approximations: " Eleven people registered for the event."
- Use hyphens (-) to connect words ending in y to other words, as in: "twenty-five candles."
- Always write years using numbers: "2005 was a very good year."
- Millions, billions: Avoid writing out long numbers (7,000,000,000) and instead use the form "7 million."
- To indicate a decade use an 's': 1960s, 1970s. If you abbreviate the decade, use an apostrophe: 50's, 60's.
- PDF Files. HTML is always the preferred format for web documents. If you use PDFs, be sure they are not just images of text or captured but non-edited text. Read Accessible PDFs.
- Sidebar Content. Use sidebar content sparingly (important information belongs in the main text area, and content that looks like an ad tends to be ignored).
- Spaces. Use a single space between sentences. Do not use spaces to indent or separate text.
- email not e-mail
- nonprofit not non-profit
- offsite not off-site
- online not on-line
- Qur'an not Koran
- website not web site
- Starr King School for the Ministry. This theological school does not take the article "the."
- State Names. State names are spelled out when they stand alone in text except for DC. (District of Columbia): "The visitors are from California." When a state name precedes a postal code or follows the name of a city, town, village, or military base within its borders, the state name is abbreviated (use postal abbreviation with no punctuation): Atlanta, GA; Washington, DC.
- Tables. The table element represents data with more than one dimension. Use header cells, captions, and summaries to clarify the meaning of the table's content. Tables must not be used as layout aids; they should only be used when necessary for the presentation of data. UUA staff: read Using Tables on Your Page (staff only).
- Telephone Numbers. When providing telephone numbers, follow this example: (123) 456-7890.
- Titles. Capitalize formal titles immediately before a name: Pope John II, President Clinton, Reverend Sinkford. Titles appearing after a name are almost never capitalized: "Peter Morales is president of the Unitarian Universalist Association." Use "Rev." instead of "the Rev." When you use the full title, however, it is preceded by "the": "The Reverend Peter Morales."
- Underlining. We do not underline text that is not also a link, as doing so confuses standard web behavior.
- United States. When speaking about the United States, abbreviate as U.S., not US.
- UU World. There is no article in this periodical title.
- UUWorld.org is the proper way to identify the online magazine of the UUA.
In creating and maintaining this style guide, the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) Web Team continually strives for accuracy and completeness. Because the Unitarian Universalist Association is in a state of constant growth and change, however, this style guide remains a work in progress. We welcome your feedback.
Writing for the Web provides general tips for tailoring your content to make the most of this online medium.