Use “we” instead of “JMU Libraries” whenever possible.
Unless the audience is mixed, write to “you” (not “the student” or “the faculty member”) using a friendly, knowledgeable voice.
Write in present tense when possible. Ex: “Your instructor expects” instead of “Your instructor will expect.”
Answer the question, “Why should I care?” Before readers invest their time into hearing what you have to say, they will want to know why it’s worth it. Explain these things up front.
When helpful for first time visitors, start with an intro sentence to orient users to the purpose and/or content of the page.
Avoid passive voice by always keeping the subject first. Ex: The dog bit the boy.
Less is more.
Avoid multi-idea sentences and paragraphs.
Check readability score of text using a Readability Calculator. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand. Score should be at least 80, or approximately 15 words per sentence and 1-1.5 syllables per word. Aim for a middle school reading level or lower.
Avoid using sentence fillers, especially at the beginning of sentences. Ex: “According to”, “There is a”, “It is”, “In my opinion”, “The purpose of this”, “In 2014.”
Delete superfluous words to avoid lengthy sentences. Ex: “We know that she can do it” can be shortened to “We know she can do it.”
Use straightforward words; avoid cliches, jargon, buzzwords, and unnecessarily flowery language. Ex: Avoid “utilize” when “use” works.
Use the words your audience uses. Ex: “What to Wear” instead of “Attire.”
Use the following words sparingly to make them helpful, not preachy. Ex: “Don’t forget”, “Never”, “Avoid”, “Don’t”, “Remember to.”
Ideally no more than 10,000 characters.
If longer, create sub-sections and make each a stand-alone page.
Ideally no more than 3 sentences or 6 lines.
A one-line paragraph is fine.
Ideally no more than 25 words.
JMU Libraries Writing Conventions
Abbreviations: Spell out first instance and include abbreviation in parentheses, then abbreviate (e.g., James Madison University (JMU); JMU).
Academic Year: Do not capitalize. (e.g., sophomore)
And: Do not use “&” in body copy. (e.g., faculty and staff, not faculty & staff)
Comma: Use serial comma. (e.g., Invite freshmen, sophomores, and juniors.)
Date: Friday, January 1, 2016. (e.g. February 2, not February 2nd)
eID: No not use hyphen or capital E.
Hybrid: Not capitalized. (e.g. hybrid, not Hybrid)
HyFlex: Camel case when the start of a sentence or in a heading with capitalized words. Lowercase (hyflex) when in the middle of a sentence.
On-Campus/Off-Campus: These terms require a hyphen only when used as an adjective. Ex: “Students have off-campus access to online resources.” NOT “Students have access to online resources from off-campus.” In the second example, it is not used as an adjective, so the hyphen should be removed.
Range: Use hyphen except when preceded by the word “from.” (e.g., Between 12-15 credits; e.g., Open from May 2 to 4)
Respondus LockDown Browser: LockDown in camelcase (e.g. LockDown, not Lockdown)