https://
The https:// in the address bar means your information is encrypted and can not be accessed by anyone else
.gov
Only government entities in the U.S. can end in .gov

Formatting

Block quotes

Use block quotes when you want to highlight a single sentence or phrase from within the body of your writing. Block quotes use formatting to draw the reader’s attention. Use block quotes sparingly to create the biggest impact.

  • Example:

“We are changing the way the City website serves our residents” – Digital Transformation Team, Office of Innovation and Technology

Capitalization

Unnecessary capitalization can come off as overly formal and unapproachable. We follow these capitalization guidelines:

  • Don’t use all capital letters. IT’S HARD TO READ AND CAN SEEM LIKE “SHOUTING.”

  • Don’t capitalize “federal” or “government.”

    • Examples:

      Working for the federal commission was very rewarding.

      City government makes important decisions.

  • Don’t capitalize a job title unless it directly precedes a proper name.

    • Examples:

      Write to Chief Technical Officer, Jane Doe.

      Write to the chief technical officer.

  • Do capitalize the word city when referring to the City of Philadelphia as an official organization.

    • Examples:

      The City will announce pool openings on Friday.

      There are several City employees at the event.

  • Don’t capitalize “city” when it is used in an inclusive or general sense.

    • Example:

      Philadelphia was selected as the host city for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

  • In headlines, page titles, and subheadings, follow sentence capitalization rules.

    • Example:

      How to pay your taxes.

  • When a heading includes a proper noun, that word should be capitalized, even if it does not appear at the beginning of the heading.

    • Example:

      How to celebrate summer in Philadelphia.

  • In titles, do not capitalize coordinating conjunctions (for example, “and,” “but,” “or”) or prepositions with four or fewer letters.

  • Do capitalize proper nouns.

    • Examples:

      Pennsylvania

      World War II

      Acme Explosives Company

Contractions

Use common contractions like it’s, can’t, shouldn’t, and you’ll. Contractions are part of everyday conversation, so readers find them easy to understand.

Too many uses of it is, cannot, and should not seem archaic and formal. We can move away from this without compromising our reliable and professional tone.

Emphasis

Bold calls attention to key information.

Italics are used under specific conditions, such as to indicate the title of a book. Avoid using italics to emphasize an idea or to create a sarcastic tone.

Underlining should not be used for emphasis in web communications. Underlining should be reserved for links

Links are most effective when they are specific and descriptive. Link text should give users a clear idea of what they will find if they follow the link. This is especially useful for people using screen readers, who will often skip from one link to another as a way of skimming content.

  • Examples:

    To be ready for the unexpected, you and your family need to make an emergency plan.

    NOT: To be ready for the unexpected, you can find out how to create an emergency plan here.

No “click here”

Do not use “click here” as the label for a link. Since “click here” is not descriptive, it’s harder for people to find the linked content through a search engine. It’s also becoming an outdated term, since mobile devices involve tapping, not clicking.

When you create a link, think about where you are sending the user and why. Check to make sure that you have picked the most relevant and authoritative destination so users will get the best information available as quickly as possible. For example, if you’re citing a statement from the Department of Public Health, link to the Health statement instead of an outside news story that quotes the statement.

You should also be consistent when determining what will happen when someone follows a link. Phila.gov follows these guidelines for opening new tabs or windows in a user’s browser:

Do not set a link to open a new browser tab or window. This applies to any web page link, whether the link goes to another phila.gov page or to an external website.

If the link will begin a new process (for example, starting a registration process for a license, paying a bill, or ordering something), do set the link to open in a new tab. This allows people to complete that new process while still referencing the original page.

When linking to a form or document, link to the phila.gov document page that houses that form, not the form itself. Document pages provide important context for files and group related forms together. Plus, a link to a document page won’t break if the file is updated.

Indicate when linking to a website outside of phila.gov

When you are linking to a website outside of phila.gov, set the link options to “This website is not part of phila.gov.” This will add an external link indicator that helps users know they’ll be going to a new website. If the link is at the end of a sentence, don’t include any punctuation in the link text. The external link indicator should appear before the punctuation.

Because we use a .gov domain, it is important not to imply that the City endorses or favors any specific private-sector supplier. To avoid this perception, ensure that links to third parties meet a clear user need. Never include a link in return for cash or services. This includes requests for reciprocal linking.

Excessive linking can be confusing and overwhelming. If a resource, topic, or organization is referenced multiple times on one page you only need to link to it the first time. For example, if you refer to the Office of Property Assessment three times in a content item, link to it the first time but not the second or third times.

Lists

There are two types of lists: bulleted and numbered. Bulleted lists are known as “unordered” on the web, and numbered lists are known as “ordered.” Most lists should be unordered. Only use an ordered list if the order or number of items matters, as in a list of steps.

Bulleted lists capitalize the first word of every bullet. Include a period only if the bullet point makes a complete sentence following the introductory phrase.

  • Example:

    When you go to the store, please buy:

    • Bread.

    • Milk.

    • Apples.

Plurals of lowercase letters

Use apostrophe + s to form plurals of lowercase letters.

  • Example: Don’t forget to dot your i’s.

What about plural of uppercase letters, like acronyms? There is no need for apostrophes indicating a plural on capitalized letters, numbers, or symbols.

PDFs

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen explains that PDFs are good for distributing documents and forms that need to be printed. However, PDFs have several limitations.

PDFs are:

  • Hard to read on computer and mobile screens.

  • Not always accessible to people with disabilities.

  • Not easily shared on social media.

For these reasons, avoid using PDFs for content you want people to read online.

White space

Whenever possible, use lots of white space.

White space, or negative space, refers to the unmarked parts of a page. This includes the space between lines, columns, and images.

Break up walls of text and keep paragraphs at four sentences or less to ensure sufficient white space.