Writing for the Web

The following guidelines are intended for GSD staff who publish or maintain informational, promotional, or instructional text online.

  • In general, use 1/3 the word count that you would use in print (think mobile first!)
  • Partition content into clearly labeled sections to support scanning
  • Use bulleted lists wherever possible and break up lists containing more than 7-10 items
  • Write clear, descriptive page titles and subheadings using the most relevant keywords (clarity over cleverness!)
  • Include interdependent information on the same page rather than spread across multiple web pages
  • Use active rather than passive voice
  • Use available styles for subheadings rather than bold, italics, lines, or hash tags; unless introducing a list, do not follow a subheading with a colon
  • Do not use ALL CAPS, underlining, multiple exclamation points!!!, emoticons :-), or color for emphasis
  • When writing for a general audience, avoid technical jargon or GSD/Harvard slang
  • Avoid business clichés or “marketese” (e.g., audience engagement, positioning, out-of-the-box thinking)
  • Verify names, dates, titles, addresses, phone numbers, locations, statistics, and URLs for accuracy before you publish. Check contact information annually to make sure information is up to date

Links

  • Use descriptive text for links (e.g., visit the Fabrication Lab); do not use “here” or “click here”
  • Do not use URLs as links (e.g., “Read the GSD News” not ”Read the GSD News at: gsd.harvard.edu/news. When you must use a URL (e.g., in print or on YouTube) do not include “http://” or “www “(e.g., gsd.harvard.edu)
  • When linking to non-web documents, include the file type after the link. E.g., Download the Spring 2012 catalog (PDF)
  • External links (i.e., links outside the GSD domain) must open a new browser window (use the “link options” tool to apply this setting)
  • Do not use email addresses as links (e.g., “Please contact Ronee Saroff,” not “Please contact Ronee Saroff at rsaroff@gsd.harvard.edu“)
  • Check links annually to make sure they are correct and active

Usage

Comma—Serial comma (architecture, planning, and design)

Courses—Projective Representation in Architecture; second-semester core; courses in landscape architecture

Dates—Give full dates (2000–2008, not ’00-‘08) except when referring to class year: Jane Smith (March ’10). Use en-dash rather than hyphens between number spans. Use the 1960s (not the 1960’s, the sixties, the ‘60s). Use March 15 (not March 15th or the 15th of March). Do not add space before or after en dash.

Degrees, General—Do not use periods or capitalize subject areas (MA, PhD, BA in environmental studies) 

Degrees, GSD—MArch I, II, MLA I, II, MAUD, MLAUD, MUP, DDes, MDes. Use parentheses when referring to a specific individual’s class: Jane Smith (MAUD 08’)

Degree Programs—Use initial caps (e.g., Landscape Architecture, Advanced Studies Program)

Email—Use email, not e-mail; lowercase except at beginning of a sentence

Em dash—Use em dash rather than double hyphen. Do not add space before or after em dash.

GSD—Always capitalize. Use “the” when the subject of a phase (the GSD offers an exciting program)

Harvard—Harvard, Harvard University, the University, University-wide 

Harvard University Graduate School of Design—also, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design; not “The Design School.” Use full name in first mention, “GSD “or “the GSD” in subsequent mentions

Homepage—One word; lowercase except at beginning of a sentence

MDes Concentrations—Use initial caps (Sustainability; Art, Design, and the Public Domain)

Online—One word; lowercase except at beginning of a sentence

Numbers—Use digits and symbols when writing for an online audience, even at the beginning of a sentence, bullet point or sub-heading (23, not twenty-three; 30%, not thirty percent). Use a combination of digits and words for large numbers (12 million; $50 thousand).

Phone numbers—Do not use parentheses or periods: 617-495-5453

Podcast—one word; lowercase except at beginning of a sentence

Platforms/Concentrations—Use initial caps (e.g., Practice Platform)

RSVP—not “Please RSVP” or R.S.V.P

School—Capitalize when the subject of a phrase (the School’s commitment to diversity)

Login—not “log in” or “sign in”; lowercase except at the beginning of a sentence

Sign up—no hyphen

Time—Lowercase with periods to indicate time of day (e.g., 7:00 p.m.or 7 p.m., not 7:30pm or 7PM). For time spans, use en dash“25 p.m.” rather than hyphen “2-5 p.m.” or text “2 to 5 p.m.”

Titles, Books—When referring to books, exhibitions, or long essays, italicize title (e.g., The New Planning Agenda, Paradise Lost)

Titles, Articles—Chapter titles, short essays, and newspaper or magazine articles are enclosed in quotation marks

Titles, Periodicals—Italicize newspaper and magazine titles (e.g., the New York Times, Dwell magazine); “the” and “magazine” are not italicized

Titles, Professional—Lowercase except at beginning of a sentence or when announcing an appointment (e.g., professor of architecture, lecturer, program coordinator, senior associate, chair, but “appointment of . . . as Assistant Professor of Architecture”) 

Web—lowercase except at beginning of a sentence

Website—one word; lowercase except at beginning of a sentence

For questions regarding GSD Web Style or updates to current usage, please contact Ronee Saroff, Assistant Director, Digital Content & Strategy.