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UXmatters Guidelines for Style and Usage

Last revised on December 17, 2010

When writing or editing for UXmatters, please follow these style and language usage guidelines. These guidelines are a work in progress, and over time, we’ll add others to make them more complete.

#  |  A  |  B  |  C  |  D  |  E  |  F  |  G  |  H  |  I  |  J  |  K  |  L  |  M  |
N  |  O  |  P  |  Q  |  R  |  S  |  T  |  U  |  V  |  W  |  X  |  Y  |  Z

Numbers & Symbols

2D
Adj., Noun—Abbreviation for two dimensional or two dimensions. Do not hyphenate.
3D
Adj., Noun—Abbreviation for three dimensional or three dimensions. Do not hyphenate.

A

abbreviations
  • Minimize use of abbreviations.
  • Define on first use. Use the full term, followed by its abbreviation in parentheses.
  • When using user experience as an adjective, use the abbreviation UX. It is not necessary to define this abbreviation on first use.
  • Never use scholarly Latin abbreviations such as i.e., use that is instead; e.g., use for example instead; ca., use about or approximately instead; etc., use and so on or and so forth instead; and et al., use and others instead. Exception: In a bibliographic entry, when truncating a list of authors, use et al.
  • When using that is or for example instead of a Latin abbreviation, an em dash should precede it and a comma should follow.
  • Generally, don’t use periods in abbreviations.
  • Form the plural of an abbreviation by adding ’s—for example, PhD’s.
  • Use all caps for abbreviations of file types such as JPEG or PDF.
-able
Suffix—When adding -able to a word, follow these guidelines:
  • For a word ending in e, drop the e unless the word ends with a soft c or a soft g—for example, browsable, sharable, sizable, changeable, pronounceable, and serviceable.
  • For a word ending in y, change the y to i—for example, reliable—except when the y is part of a diphthongfor example, playable or employable.
  • For verbs that end in a consonant, double the final consonant only if the participial form of the verb also takes a double consonant—for example, forgetting, forgettable.
  • However, words formed from verbs ending in fer always take a single consonant—for example, transferable.
abort
Do not use when you mean disconnecting, exiting (Windows) or quitting (Mac OS) an application, or stopping a hardware operation.
above
Do not use when you mean preceding or earlier. See also below.
abstracts
UXmatters articles do not open with abstracts.
accessible, accessibility
Use only to describe or refer to a quality that makes a product or service usable by everyone, including those with disabilities.
acronyms
  • Define on first use. Use the full term, followed by its acronym in parentheses.
  • Form the plural of an acronym by adding an s—for example, ISPs.
  • Form the possessive of an acronym by adding ’sfor example, ISP’s.
action button
Do not use. Use button or command button instead.
activate, deactivate
Do not use when you mean turn on, turn off.
active
Describes the window, application, or cell that a user has selected—that is, in which a user is currently working. Do not use current—or in the first two cases, front or frontmost. Do not use to describe a user interface element that is currently available. Compare available, current.
address
When referring to an email address or Web address, do not use address alone on the first use. Use email address or Web address instead, respectively, then subsequently use address alone. See also email address and Web address.
affect
VerbTo affect means to act on or influence. Do not use when you mean the verb or noun effect. Compare effect.
after
Do not use after when you mean once—that is, when describing a precondition.
afterward
Not afterwards.
alert
In the Mac OS, refers to an alert message, or message, or alert sound, or beep, that calls a user’s attention to an event, asks a user to confirm an action, or informs a user of an error condition. In Windows, use message instead. Compare message.
align
Verb—To bring objects into alignment with other objects, but on margins. When describing the alignment of text on only one margin, use align, not justify. Compare justify.
aligned
Adj.—Objects align with other objects, but on margins. When describing text that is aligned on only one margin, use aligned, not justified. If the adjectives left-aligned and right-aligned precede the nouns they modify, hyphenate them; if they follow their nouns, do not hyphenate, as in left aligned or right aligned. Compare justified.
alignment
Refers to the placement of lines of text in relation to the left and right margins—for example, left aligned, right aligned, centered, or justified. Do not use justification when you mean alignment. Compare justification.
allows
Generally, avoid the verbose form allows…to. Instead, use lets. Consider describing what a reader or user can do instead—for example, say you can or a user can, respectively.
alphabetical
Not alphabetic.
alternate
Do not use when you mean alternative.
America, American
Refers to both North and South America. Do not use when you mean the United States.
among
Use when referring to three or more or an unspecified number of people or things. Not amongst. Compare between.
amount
Use when referring to sum totals of numbers, a quantity of money, or an unspecified or innumerable quantity of something—for example, the amount of text on a page, the amount of work, or the amount of energy. Do not use when you mean number. Compare number. See also less.
ampersand (&)
Generally, do not use. Use and instead. Its use is permissible if absolutely necessary because of constraints of space—for example, in a table, a link in a navigation bar, or a subtitle in a sidebar. In such a case, use the ampersand consistently in all instances of a phrase and in place of and in all other links or subtitles in the same context. Omit the serial comma preceding &.
and/or
When possible, rewrite to avoid using this construction or use either and or or. However, if clarity and conciseness require its use, and/or is acceptable.
and so forth, and so on
Generally, avoid using. Instead, if necessary, complete a series with a general item, as follows: …Photoshop, and other graphics applications. However, and so on is preferable to et cetera. Do not use to complete a phrase that begins with for example or such as. Compare et cetera.
anti-
Prefix—Do not hyphenate except before an i, a proper noun, or a proper adjective.
apostrophes (’)
Use curly apostrophes. Use this character code for curly apostrophes: ’
appear, appears
Intr. Verb—Describes the appearance of elements on a screen—for example, a dialog box appears. Appears does not require an object. Do not use display or displays when you mean appear or appears. Compare displays.
application
Refers to a computer program that lets a user perform a specific task. Do not use program. Generally, avoid using app or apps. See also software.
application software
Use to refer collectively to application programs, distinguishing them from other types of software such as system software. Not applications software.
Arabic
Adj.—Capitalize when referring to Arabic numerals. See also Roman.
arrow
Do not use when you mean pointer. Use arrow or arrow pointer only when describing a particular type of pointer. Compare pointer.
article
Do not use when referring to columns that appear on UXmatters.
assure
VerbTo assure means to state positively, removing doubt. Do not use when you mean ensure. Compare ensure.
as
Do not use in a subordinate clause when you mean because or while. Compare because, while.
auto-
Prefix—Do not hyphenate in words beginning with a consonant—for example, autocompletion, autoconfiguration, or autoplay. However, hyphenate in words beginning with a vowel—for example, auto-answer or auto-update.
 
available
Use to describe a menu item, button, or an option in a dialog box or on a Web page that a user can currently choose or select. Do not use active or enabled. Use make available, not enable. Compare unavailable.

B

back end, back-end
Noun, Adj.—The noun is two words. Hyphenate the adjective.
backward
Refers to a direction. Not backwards, unless you mean something is back to front.
backward compatibility
Not backwards compatibility.
backward-compatible
Note hyphenation.
baseline
One word—whether referring to an initial level, a guideline, or an established standard—as in establishing a baseline for future studies—or, in typography, to the imaginary line on which the bottoms of letters without descenders align.
because
Use when describing a reason for something. Do not use as or since when you mean because. When using because to introduce a nonrestrictive dependent clause, set the clause off with commas. Compare as, since.
below
Do not use when you mean following or later. See also above.
between
Use when referring to two people or things. Compare among.
bibliographic entries

Note—Brackets indicate variables.

  • Bibliographic entries should be in alphabetical order—with the exception of a list of endnotes, which should appear in the order in which references first occur within an article.
  • If including endnotes, repeat the use of the same endnote number [#] within the text of an article rather than repeating the endnote.
  • Use the following formats and punctuation for bibliographic entries:
    • For books:
      • [Author(s)]. [Title]. [Place of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].
      • Example: Galitz, Wibert O. User-Interface Screen Design. Boston: QED Publishing Group, 1993.
      • Book titles are in italics.
      • Any edition information follows the title—for example, Second ed.
      • Example: Albers, Josef. Interaction of Color. Revised ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975.
    • For articles, Web pages, and papers:
      • [Author(s)]. “[Title].” [Publication]: [Date].
      • Titles of articles, Web pages, and papers are within quotation marks.
      • If a Web page has no author, use the publication’s name instead.
      • For content on the Web, include a retrieval date, as follows: [Author(s)]. “[Title].” [Web Site], [Date]. Retrieved [Date]. Create a link on the title.
      • Example: Boddie, John. “Behind Apple’s Strategy: Be Second to Market.” Working Knowledge, Harvard Business School: August 29, 2005. Retrieved March 4, 2006.
      • Example: Garo, Laurie A. B. “Color Theory.” Virtual Geography Department: Updated June 21, 1999. Retrieved July 3, 2003.
  • Author names:
    • Spell out author names in full. Avoid abbreviating given names, if possible.
    • If there is a single author, give the author’s name as follows: [Surname], [Given Name].
    • If there are multiple authors, the first author name is in the preceding format, but subsequent author names are as follows: [Given Name] [Surname].
    • If there are two authors, and precedes the name of the second author.
    • If there are more than two authors, serial commas separate their names, with and preceding the last author’s name.
    • When truncating a list of many authors, use et al. If et al. follows the name of a single author, it has no preceding comma. If et al. completes a series, with two or more author names preceding it, a serial comma and the word and precede it.
    • If two or more books or articles are by the same author or authors, provide the full author information for the first bibliographic entry, then in subsequent bibliographic entries by the same author, use two concatenated em dashes—that is, two instances of the character code — without intervening spaces—in place of the author name. For example: —— Interaction of Color. Revised ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975.
  • Titles:
    • In the title, include any subtitle, following a colon.
    • Italicize book and periodical titles.
    • Enclose article titles in quotation marks.
    • Use title caps for all titles.
    • Make the title of an online article a link. Indicate links to PDF files.
  • For the location of a publisher, include the name of a state or country only when the place of publication is not a well-known city. When including a state name, use its correct postal abbreviation.

Types of Bibliographic Entries

Note—Brackets indicate variables. Only Web publications include a retrieval date.

Entry Type Entry Format Examples

BOOK

Single author

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name]. [Title]. [City of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].

Kelley, Tom. The Ten Faces of Innovation. New York: Currency Doubleday, 2005.

Two authors

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name], and [Author’s Full Name]. [Title]. [City of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].

Lie, Hakon Wium, and Bert Bos. Cascading Style Sheets: Designing for the Web. London: Addison-Wesley, 1999.

Three or more authors

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name], [Author’s Full Name], and [Author’s Full Name]. [Title]. [City of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].

Neuhart, John, Marilyn Neuhart, and Ray Eames. Eames Design: The Work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames. Harry N. Abrams: New York, 1989.

Editor as author

[Editor’s Surname], [Editor’s Given Name], ed. [Title]. [City of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].

Sherman, Paul, ed. Usability Success Stories: How Organizations Improve by Making Easier-to-Use Software and Web Sites. Aldershot, Hampshire, UK: Gower Publishing Limited, 2006.

Organization as author

[Organization’s Name]. [Title]. [City of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].

Apple. Apple Human Interface Guidelines. Cupertino, CA: Apple Inc., 2008.

No author given

[Title]. [City of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].

New Life Options: The Working Women’s Resource Book. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.

Edition other than first

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name]. [Title]. [Ordinal Number] ed. [City of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].

  • Niederst, Jennifer. Web Design in a Nutshell. Second ed. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2001.
  • Itten, Johannes. The Art of Color: The Subjective Experience and Objective Rationale of Color. Revised ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1974.

Reprint

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name]. [Title]. [City of Publication]: [Original Publisher], [Year of Publication]. Reprint, [City of Publication]: [Reprint Publisher], [Year of Publication].

Myrdal, Gunnar. Population: A Problem for Democracy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940. Reprint, Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1956.

Chapter by another author

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name]. “[Chapter Title].” In [Title], ed. [Editor’s Full Name]. [City of Publication]: [Publisher], [Year of Publication].

Hanson, Kaaren, and Wendy Castleman. “Tracking Ease-of-Use Metrics: A Tried and True Method for Driving Adoption of UCD in Different Corporate Cultures.” In Usability Success Stories: How Organizations Improve by Making Easier-to-Use Software and Web Sites, ed. Paul Sherman. Aldershot, Hampshire, UK: Gower Publishing Limited, 2006.

ARTICLE, WEB PAGE, OR PAPER—on the Web or in print

Single author

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name]. “[Article Title].” [Publication Name], [Month DD, YYYY]. Retrieved [Month DD, YYYY].

Nieters, Jim. “Artists, Not Assholes.” UXmatters, November 3, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2009.

Two authors

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name], and [Author’s Full Name]. “[Article Title].” [Publication Name], [Month DD, YYYY]. Retrieved [Month DD, YYYY].

Nudelman, Greg, and Frank Guo. “Make More Money: Best Practices for Ads in Search Results: Part 2.” UXmatters, November 2, 2009. Retrieved December 17, 2010.

Three or more authors

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name], [Author’s Full Name], and [Author’s Full Name]. “[Article Title].” [Publication Name], [Month DD, YYYY]. Retrieved [Month DD, YYYY].

Ferrara, John, Pabini Gabriel-Petit, and Louis Rosenfeld. “UXnet Local Ambassadors: Building a Global Community One Locale at a Time.” UXmatters, January 9, 2006. Retrieved December 17, 2010.

Editor as author

[Author’s Surname], [Author’s Given Name], ed. “[Article Title].” [Publication Name], [Month DD, YYYY]. Retrieved [Month DD, YYYY].

Smith, Sally E., ed. “What Colors Do Animals See?” WebExhibits/Causes of Color. Retrieved May 28, 2010.

Organization as author

[Organization’s Name]. “[Article Title].” [Publication Name], [Month DD, YYYY]. Retrieved [Month DD, YYYY].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2006.

No author given

[Publication Name]. “[Article Title].” [Publication Name], [Month DD, YYYY]. Retrieved [Month DD, YYYY].

Software Magazine. “Standish: Project Success Rates Improved Over 10 Years.” Software Magazine, Jan 15, 2004. Retrieved on March 4, 2006.

 

bibliography
  • If you’ve relied on other published sources of information when writing an article, credit those sources in a bibliography or endnotes. Alternatively, you can provide suggestions for further reading in a list of resources or references.
  • Give your bibliography the heading Resources, References, Endnotes, or Bibliography, as appropriate.
  • Include complete bibliographic entries in the correct format. See also bibliographic entries.
bold
Adj.—Not bolded, boldface, or boldfaced. Do not use as either a verb or a noun. Use the noun bold type.
bold type
  • Use for section headings; run-in heads within content—for example, in bulleted lists and notes—and in figure and table captions; headers in tables—for both columns and rows, if any—labels within instructions or in descriptions of user interfaces, and labels in forms.
  • Use for all user interface labels—including menu and command names, group labels; and labels for buttons, icons, ToolTips, text boxes, drop-down lists, check boxes, option buttons, and other widgets.
  • Do not use for emphasis. Use italics instead.
bottom left, bottom right
Do not use. Use lower left and lower right instead.
box
Generally, use when referring to a text box or other user interface element that is a box, with the exception of a check box or list box. Do not use field.
brackets
  • Use square brackets to enclose variables in user interface labels.
  • Within quotations, use square brackets to enclose material someone other than the original author has added—such as substitutions for the original text, paraphrases, interpolations, explanations, or corrections.
  • When using other punctuation with brackets, apply the same rules as for parentheses. See also parentheses.
British English
Use American English, not British English spellings—for example:
  • acknowledgement—Should be acknowledgment.
  • amongst—Should be among.
  • analogue—Should be analog.
  • analyse—Should be analyze.
  • arguement—Should be argument.
  • artefact—Should be artifact.
  • behaviour—Should be behavior.
  • behove—Should be behoove.
  • cancelled—Should be canceled.
  • capitalise—Should be capitalize.
  • catagorisation—Should be catagorization.
  • catagorise—Should be catagorize.
  • catalogue—Should be catalog.
  • cater for—Should be cater to.
  • centre—Should be center.
  • centred—Should be centered.
  • civilisation—Should be civilization.
  • colour—Should be color.
  • criticise—Should be criticize.
  • disorientated—Should be disoriented.
  • emphasise—Should be emphasize.
  • endeavour—Should be endeavor.
  • enquiry—Should be inquiry.
  • favourite—Should be favorite.
  • fulfil—Should be fulfill.
  • generalise—Should be generalize.
  • got (past participle)—Should be gotten. For example, He’s gotten much better at sketching.
  • grey—Should be gray.
  • humour—Should be humor.
  • instalment—Should be installment.
  • judgement—Should be judgment.
  • labelled—Should be labeled.
  • learnt—Should be learned.
  • licence—Should be license.
  • marvellous—Should be marvelous.
  • maximise—Should be maximize.
  • memorise—Should be memorize.
  • modelling—Should be modeling.
  • in a team—Should be on a team.
  • optimisation—Should be optimization.
  • optimise—Should be optimize.
  • organisation—Should be organization.
  • organise—Should be organize.
  • orientated—Should be oriented.
  • panellist—Should be panelist.
  • phoney—Should be phony.
  • practise—Should be practice.
  • practising—Should be practicing.
  • programme—Should be program.
  • realise—Should be realize.
  • recognise—Should be recognize.
  • rigour—Should be rigor.
  • sceptic, scepticism, sceptical—Should be skeptic, skepticism, skeptical.
  • signalling—Should be signaling.
  • skilful—Should be skillful.
  • speciality—Should be specialty.
  • specialisation—Should be specialization.
  • specialise—Should be specialize.
  • standardisation—Should be standardization.
  • standardise—Should be standardize.
  • towards—Should be toward.
  • visualise—Should be visualize.
  • whilst—Should be while.
browsable
Not browseable.
bullet
Refers to the character or graphic element that precedes each item, or bullet point, in a list.
bulleted list
Refers to a list that comprises bullet points. Do not use bullet list.
bulleted lists
  • Use bulleted lists for lists of items or lists of links.
  • Consider breaking a run-in list in a sentence into a bulleted list if it is very long, complex—requiring multiple levels of items—or requires typographic prominence.
  • An introductory sentence or clause should always precede a bulleted list—that is, it should not immediately follow a section heading. A complete sentence is preferable.
  • A bulleted list must always comprise two or more items; never a single item.
  • Items in a bulleted list should have parallel structures. See also parallel structures.
  • For bulleted lists that comprise sentence fragments:
    • Do not use a closing colon preceding the list.
    • Do not capitalize the first word in a list item that is a sentence fragment.
    • Do not use a closing period following a list item that is a sentence fragment.
  • Each item in a simple bulleted list is a word or phrase with no initial cap or closing punctuation. If an item in a simple list consists of a sentence fragment and a complete sentence follows it:
    • The sentence fragment is in bold and an em dash follows it.
    • The complete sentence has a closing period.
    • Only the sentence uses sentence-style capitalization.
  • Each item in a complex bulleted list is a complete sentence, uses sentence-style capitalization, and has a closing period.
  • In a combination of a simple and a complex bulleted list, each list item consists of a brief fragment of text that appears in bold, followed by an em dash and one or more complete sentences, with closing periods.
  • For simple bulleted lists, complex bulleted lists, or combinations of simple and complex bulleted lists, a colon always follows
    • an introductory sentence that includes as follows or the following
    • an introduction that is not a complete sentence—if the list does not comprise sentence fragments that complete it or if the introduction includes for example or that is.
  • A colon can follow any introductory sentence, but a closing period is also permissible.
button
Clicking an onscreen button or pressing a mechanical button initiates an action. Use button when referring to a command button. Do not use action button or push button. Use button or command button. Generally, refer to a specific button only by its label—for example, click OK. For a button whose label is an icon rather than text, refer to the button by its ToolTip, in bold, followed by the word button, in lowercase, plain text—for example, the Maximize button. Do not call such a button an icon. Compare icon.

C

callout
Noun—One word. Refers to a brief text label, a letter or number, or another device that identifies or calls attention to a particular part of a figure.
  • A text callout describes a specific element in a figure, to which it is usually joined by a leader line, which is a thin line with no arrowhead. Generally, use straight horizontal or vertical leader lines. Angled leader lines often do not render well and contribute to a cluttered look.
  • Use a callout for anything you need to identify within a figure. However, keep callouts brief and try to limit their number. Too many callouts can be distracting to readers.
  • Use sentence-style capitalization for callouts.
  • If a callout is a complete sentence, use a closing period. Use no closing punctuation for a sentence fragment.
  • You can include callouts that comprise both complete sentences and phrases in the same figure.
can
Use to describe actions or tasks a user or application is able to perform. Use to express capabilities, or the capacity to do something. Do not use could when you mean can. Like might, could conveys some doubt about the outcome. However, use could, the past tense of can, if its meaning is clear. Compare may, might.
cancel, canceled, canceling
Not cancelled, cancelling. On a PC, say cancel the selection, not deselect.
capitalization
  • Capitalize the first letter of a proper noun, but not that of a common noun.
  • Follow the capitalization conventions specific applications use—for example, case-sensitive keywords—as well as those for product and feature names—for example, names with internal capitalization like LinkedIn. However, be conservative in capitalizing the names of product features and technologies. Capitalize such a name only if there is a marketing or branding campaign for the name, it’s necessary to distinguish a specific component or product such as SQL Serverfrom a technology with a similar name, such as an SQL database server, or an industry-standard term is capitalized.
  • Do not capitalize the spelled-out form of an acronym unless it is a proper noun.
  • Do not overuse capitalization. Use lowercase unless there is a specific reason for capitalization.
  • There are three styles of capitalization, as follows:
    • title-style capitalization, or title capsAlways capitalize nouns; verbs, including Is, Are, and other forms of Be; adverbs, including Than and When; adjectives, including This and That; and pronouns, including It and Its. Always capitalize the first and last words in both titles and subtitles, regardless of their parts of speech; the word If; the second word in a hyphenated compound if it is a noun or proper adjective or the words have equal importance—for example, Cross-Reference. However, do not capitalize the second word if it is some other part of speech or is a participle that modifies the first word—for example, Add-on or How-to. In other words, capitalize all words except articles (a, an, and the); coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, yet, and so); the word to in infinitives; the word as, regardless of the part of speech; prepositions of four letters or fewer (at, by, for, from, in, into, of, off, on, onto, out, over, to, up, and with), except when they are part of a verb phrase—such as Starting Up Your Computer, Logging In to the Site, or Backing Up Your Files—or are used as an adverb, adjective, noun, or verb. Exception: Capitalize With when using it in conjunction with Without.
    • sentence-style capitalization, or initial cap only—Capitalize the first letter of the first word, as well as the first letter of any proper nouns or adjectives.
    • all caps, or all uppercase—Use for abbreviations of file types such as JPEG or PDF. Do not use for emphasis. Use italics instead.
  • Capitalize elements of user interfaces, as follows:
    • Use title-style capitalization for menu names, command names, window and dialog box titles, tab labels, and command button labels.
    • Use title-style capitalization for the names of functional elements that do not have labels in user interfaces, such as toolbars—Standard toolbar—and toolbar buttons—Show History button.
    • Use sentence-style capitalization for the labels of other elements in windows and dialog boxes and on Web pages, including all form elements such as text boxes, list boxes, check boxes, option buttons, and radio buttons.
    • Do not capitalize generic user interface terms such as window, dialog box, menu, command, toolbar, icon, drop-down list, check box, option button, radio button, button, and scroll bar. Exception: ToolTip. Note its internal capitalization.
    • Do not capitalize user input or program output unless case matters.
  • Follow these guidelines for capitalization in titles and headings:
    • Use title-style capitalization for book titles, chapter titles, article titles, part titles, page titles, and disc titles, including subtitles; section headings; headers in tables; button labels; and links in navigation bars.
    • Use sentence-style capitalization for figure and table captions and callouts.
    • Do not capitalize case-sensitive terms such as keywords and special terms in programming languages that should be in lowercase.
  • In references to specific figures, tables, chapters, or appendices, capitalize Figure, Table, Chapter, and Appendix, respectively.
  • In references to untitled sections of a book such as a glossary, index, or table of contents or to an unspecified appendix, don’t capitalize the name of the section.
  • If a direct question within another sentence is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word in the question.
  • For capitalization style in bulleted lists—see bulleted lists.
  • In a sentence, do not capitalize the word following a colon unless the word is a proper noun or the text following the colon is a complete sentence. Do not capitalize the word following an em dash unless it is a proper noun, even if the text following the em dash is a complete sentence.
  • Always capitalize the first word of a new sentence. If necessary, rewrite sentences so they don’t start with a case-sensitive lowercase word.
catalog
Not catalogue.
check
Do not use when you mean clicking a check box to select an option.
check box, checkbox
In Windows, two words; Mac OS, one word. Do not use ballot box or box alone when referring to a check box. A user clicks a check box to select or deselect it. Do not use check when you mean click to select (Windows) or select (Mac or Windows), or uncheck, turn off, unmark, or deselect when you mean clear (Windows) or deselect (Mac). The label for a check box usually uses sentence-style capitalization. Therefore, when referring to a check box in an article, use bold type—not quotation marks—to set off the label from the surrounding text. Compare option button, radio button.
checkmark
One word. Refers to the X or check in a check box. Not check.
choose
On a Mac, a user chooses an item on a menu, but selects an option in a dialog box; selects a disk icon, a graphic image, or text, then chooses a command to act on the selection. On a PC, a user clicks a command, not chooses a command.
click
Noun, Verb—Refers to an interaction in which a user points to an object on the screen by positioning the pointer over it using a mouse or other pointing device, then briefly presses and releases the mouse button. On a PC, a user clicks rather than chooses or selects to issue a command or set an option, respectively. Clicking a command, button, or icon initiates an action. Clicking a link displays its destination. Clicking a box or text selects an insertion point in it. Clicking a check box, option button, or radio button selects or deselects it. Clicking a disc icon selects it. Never say click on. A user clicks in a window or an area of a window such as a scroll bar. However, in all other cases, click should be a transitive verb. Don’t say click and drag. A user either clicks or drags. Compare drag.
Click Wheel
Two words. Refers to the iPod touch wheel and buttons. Note capitalization. Not Apple Click Wheel or touch wheel.
clickstream
One word. Refers to the path a user follows when browsing the Web.
client
Refers to an application that obtains data or services from a server.
client/server
Note the slash mark.
close button
Note lowercase. In Mac OS X, refers to the leftmost of the three buttons at the left of a title bar. Clicking the close button closes the window.
Close button
Note uppercase. In Windows, refers to the box containing an X at the right of a title bar. Clicking the Close button closes the window.
co-
Prefix—Do not hyphenate—for example, coauthor.
colons
  • Use a colon following an independent clause that introduces one or more illustrative or amplifying elements.
  • Use a colon after expressions such as the following or as follows.
  • Generally, an independent clause—comprising a complete thought, with both a subject and a verb—should precede a colon, unless the colon precedes a run-in, bulleted, or numbered list, or step-by-step procedure.
  • Within a sentence, use lowercase for the first word following a colon unless it is a proper noun. However, a colon can also introduce a complete sentence—for example, in a bulleted or numbered list, dialogue, speech, or an extract.
  • In a title or heading, capitalize the first word following a colon, regardless of its part of speech.
  • Colons that are not part of a quotation should follow closing quotation marks.
  • A colon may follow the attribution of a longer, more formal quotation. Compare commas.
color
Not colour.
combo box
In Windows, the technical term for a box that lets a user either select an item from a list or type a value directly in the box.
command
Refers to an item on a menu that initiates an action. Do not use menu item, menu option, or menu choice. On the Mac, users choose commands; on a PC, they click commands. Do not use select a command. Use title capitalization for command names, but do not capitalize command. When using a verb that is a command name as a regular verb in text, do not capitalize it. See also menu item.
commas
  • Use a comma to indicate a small break in a sentence that makes the sentence more readable or prevents ambiguity.
  • Always use commas to separate three or more items in a series. Never omit the serial comma preceding and or or, even if the last item in the series consists of a pair that is joined by and. However, if all items in a series are joined by and or or, do not separate the items with commas unless they are long and commas would improve readability.
  • Always use a comma following an introductory phrase—that is, an adverbial or participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence—unless it immediately precedes the verb it modifies. A single introductory word usually does not require a comma.
    • However, you may use a comma for emphasis—for example, So, …; First, …; Next, …; Then, …; and Finally, …—but be consistent within a given context.
    • A comma can optionally follow an exclamatory Oh or Ah.
    • A comma usually follows the words Yes, No, and Well.
  • Set off nonrestrictive phrases in commas. But do not set off restrictive phrases, which are essential to the meaning of the nouns they modify, in commas.
  • Commas can set off parenthetical elements such as interjections—for example, …, indeed, or …, therefore, or …, thus, or …, however,—and descriptive phrases. Use em dashes for a stronger break or to set off parenthetical phrases with internal punctuation. Do not enclose an adverb that is essential to the meaning of a clause within commas.
  • When a conjunction—such as and, but, or, so, or yet—joins independent clauses, a comma should precede the conjunction unless the clauses are very short and closely connected. Exception: If two conjunctions are adjacent—for example, and if, but if—there is no comma between them.
  • Always use a comma following a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence or to set off a dependent clause that precedes its main clause. However, when a dependent clause follows the main clause, if it is restrictive—that is, essential to the meaning of the main clause—do not set it off with commas, but if it is nonrestrictive, set it off with commas.
  • Always use commas to set off a relative clause that is nonrestrictive, but never to set off one that is restrictive.
  • When two or more adjectives precede a noun, use commas to separate them unless the noun and the adjective immediately preceding it are function as a single term.
  • When repeated adjectives precede a noun, use commas to separate them.
  • If you want to indicate pauses, use commas to set off phrases beginning with not or not only.
  • Use a comma between clauses starting with words like the more, the less, the sooner, the later, the longer, the higher, the lower, the better, or the worse.
  • If an appositive—that is, a word, phrase, or clause that is in apposition to a noun—is nonrestrictive, set it off with commas; if restrictive, do not set it off with commas.
  • A comma should follow that is, for instance, for example, namely, in other words, and similar expressions.
  • When using or in the sense of in other words, a comma should precede it.
  • A comma can indicate the omission of a nonessential word or words, but can be omitted if the text is clear without it.
  • Commas should precede closing quotation marks.
  • A comma usually sets off an attribution of a brief quotation unless that or whether immediately precedes the quotation. Thus, a comma precedes or follows verbs like said, says, wrote, replied, and asked—for example, Jim replied. Alternatively, a colon may precede a longer, more formal quotation. Compare colons.
  • A preceding comma and italics set off a direct question within another sentence. If the question is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word in the question.
communication, communications
When referring to the act of communicating, use the singular form. When referring to a type of technology, use the plural.
comprise
Use when you mean is composed of. A whole comprises its parts. Do not use is comprised of. Compare constitute.
computer
Use desktop computer or notebook computer; not desktop or notebook alone. Not CPU. PC or Mac is permissible.
constitute
Parts constitute a whole. Compare comprise.
context-sensitive, context sensitive
Adj.—Hyphenate when it precedes a noun; do not hyphenate when it follows a noun.
contractions
Use to give articles a more informal tone. For example, you can form contractions from pronouns and verbs—such as he’s, she’s, you’ll, you’re, or we’ve—or from verbs and the word not—such as isn’t, don’t, won’t, or can’t. However, avoid forming contractions from proper nouns and verbs—for example, Apple’s or Google’s. Forming contractions from brand names violates trademark guidelines. Be careful not to confuse the contraction for it is—that is, it’s—with the possessive pronoun its.
controlled, controlling
Not controled, controling.
cross-references
Note hyphenation. In a cross-reference to a section heading, use title-style capitalization, enclose the heading in quotation marks, and always make the heading a link. In a cross-reference to another part in series of articles, use title-style capitalization for the part title; enclose the title, but not the word Part or the part number, in quotation marks; and always make the title a link. Do not include the quotation marks or any closing punctuation in a link. Generally, do not place cross-references within parentheses. However, cross-references can appear in the following formats:
current
Use to refer to a drive, directory, folder, or other similar element that a user has selected—that is, in which a user is currently working. Compare active.
cursor
Do not use when referring to an insertion point or a pointer on a computer screen. Compare insertion point, pointer.

D

dates
Dates should have the following format: [Month DD, YYYY]—note the comma following the day—or [Month YYYY].
deselect
On a Mac, refers to canceling a selection. Do not use uncheck, unselect, unhighlight, or dehighlight.
dialog box
Refers to a type of window that appears on the screen to elicit additional information from a user. Note spelling. Do not use dialog.
A dialog appears. Don’t use dialog box. Compare alert, popup, window.
dialogue
Note spelling. Use when referring to communication between people.
different
In most comparisons, use different from rather than different than or different to. Use different than only when the object of comparison is a clause. Ensure that the things you’re comparing are parallel. See also parallel structure.
dimmed
Use to describe the appearance of a menu item, button, or an option in a dialog box or on a Web page that a user cannot currently choose or select. Do not use grayed or grayed out. Say appears dimmed, not is dimmed. Compare unavailable.
directions
Do not use when referring to instructions for a procedure. Use instructions instead.
disable (v.)
Do not use when referring to the action of making a user interface element unavailable. Use make unavailable instead. See also unavailable. Compare enable.
disabled (adj.)
Do not use to describe the unavailable state of a user interface element. Use unavailable instead. See also unavailable. Compare enabled.
display, displays
Tr. Verb—Do not use when you mean appear or appears. Do not use display or displays without a direct object. Do not use the passive is displayed. Compare appears.
drag
Verb—The act of positioning the pointer over an object on the screen, pressing and holding down the mouse button, moving the mouse, then releasing the mouse button—for example, drag a document to the Trash. Don’t say drag the mouse or click and drag. Don’t use place, put, or move when you mean drag.

E

ecommerce
Do not hyphenate.
effect
Verb, Noun—The verb effect means to bring about; the noun, the result.
ellipses (…)
  • Use an ellipsis to indicate the omission of one or more words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs from a quotation, while maintaining fidelity to the meaning of the original text. See also quotations.
  • Do not use an ellipsis preceding the first word of a quotation to indicate the omission of the beginning of the original sentence.
  • It is not necessary to use an ellipsis following the last word of a quotation to indicate the omission of the end of the original sentence, unless the quoted sentence is deliberately grammatically incomplete.
  • If necessary for clarity, retain the punctuation preceding or following an ellipsis within a sentence. However, it is permissible to omit punctuation surrounding an omission.
  • A comma, colon, semicolon, period, question mark, or exclamation point can either precede or follow an ellipsis.
  • Use an ellipsis to indicate the omission from a quotation of one or more words or phrases within a sentence.
  • When using an ellipsis between sentences in a quotation to indicate the omission of one or more sentences, retain the closing punctuation of the preceding sentence. Grammatically complete sentences should both precede and follow the ellipsis.
  • When omitting the beginning of what is still a grammatically complete sentence that follows an ellipsis, capitalize the first word of the sentence, even if it was in lowercase in the original sentence.
  • When indicating the omission of one or more paragraphs from a quotation, it’s generally sufficient to use an ellipsis following the paragraph that precedes the omission. However, when omitting the beginning of the sentence opening the paragraph that immediately follows an omitted paragraph, use another ellipsis preceding that sentence.
  • Insert a space preceding and following an ellipsis.
  • Use the character code … for ellipses.
email
Do not hyphenate. When referring to an email message, use email message or, on subsequent occurrences, message instead.
email address
On the first occurrence, do not use address alone when referring to an email address.
emailing
Do not use. Use sending an email message instead.
email list
Do not use. Use mailing list instead.
email message
Not email. Use on the first occurrence, then on subsequent occurrences, use message. See also message. Compare posting.
email notification
Use when referring to an email message that a Web application sends automatically to notify a user about an event of some sort.
em dashes (—)
  • Use em dashes rather than parentheses or semicolons to set off supplementary or explanatory information that interrupts or changes the focus of a sentence. Such a phrase may begin with for example, that is, or such as.
  • Use em dashes—rather than ellipses—to indicate a sudden break in thought.
  • Always use an em dash both before and after such a phrase if it occurs in the middle of a sentence.
  • Use an em dash before such a phrase if it occurs at the end of a sentence.
  • A question mark or an exclamation point can precede an em dash, but not a comma, semicolon, colon, or period.
  • Do not add a space before or after an em dash.
  • Use the character code — for em dashes.
enable (v.), enabled
Do not use when you mean make available or available, respectively. Compare disable, disabled.
en dashes (–)
  • Use an en dash to indicate a range of numbers—that is, from one number through another. Do not use an en dash if the word from precedes the first number; use to instead. If the word between precedes the first number; use and instead. See also numbers.
  • When necessary for clarity, use an en dash in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one element of the adjective is an open compound, comprising two words—for example, San Francisco—or two or more elements are either open compounds or hyphenated compounds—for example, user-generated–self-published content.
  • Use an en dash in place of a hyphen between words having equal weight in a compound adjective—for example, human–computer interaction.
  • If a key name in a combination keystroke is itself two words, use an en dash rather than a hyphen—for example, Option–Right Bracket, Command–Option–Up Arrow, Shift–double-click, or Command–Shift–double-click.
  • Do not add a space before or after an en dash.
  • Use the character code – for en dashes.
ensure
Verb—Means to guarantee. Do not use when you mean assure or insure. Compare assure, insure.
et cetera, etc.
Do not use. Use and so on instead. Compare and so on.
exclamation points
  • Use exclamation points sparingly.
  • An exclamatory question should end with an exclamation point rather than a question mark.
  • Closing exclamation points that are part of a quotation should precede closing quotation marks.
  • Exclamation points that are not part of a quotation should follow closing quotation marks.
eyetracking
One word. Do not hyphenate when it’s an adjective.

F

fewer
Use when referring to a smaller number of something—for example, fewer images, fewer pixels, fewer lines of text, or fewer people. Do not use when you mean less. Compare less. See also number.
field
Do not use when you mean box. Compare box.
figures
Sections should never open with a figure. Some descriptive text, incorporating a figure reference, should always precede a figure. Images can be a maximum of 474 pixels in width. Select figures that work within this size constraint. Screenshots should usually be highest quality JPEGs and should have no internal, surrounding whitespace, so they’ll align properly. 474 pixels is a good standard width for most screenshots. If an image is too large, either reduce it or—if reducing it would diminish its quality or make its text unreadable—crop the image to show only the relevant part. Do not add borders around images. Figures are always left aligned with a figure caption immediately preceding them and a figure reference within the preceding text. See also figure captions and figure references.
figure captions
A figure caption precedes each figure and has the following format: Figure [#]—[Caption text]. An em dash follows the figure number. Figure captions use sentence-style capitalization and have no closing period.
figure references
Refer to each figure within the text of an article. For example, you can use the following types of figure references:
  • Figure [#] shows…
  • …, as Figure [#] shows
  • …, as shown in Figure [#]
  • (See Figure [#].)
foreign words and phrases
Generally, avoid using them.
future tense
Generally, avoid the use of future tense.

G

graphic
Not graphical.

H

headings
  • You can use up to four levels of section headings (H2, H3, H4, and H5). Meaningful headings help readers scan an article to find information that’s of interest to them. See also sections.
  • Whenever possible, section headings should have parallel structures.
  • Use title caps for all section headings.
  • Headings usually have no closing punctuation, with the possible exception of a question mark or, in a series of subheadings within a section, in which all of the subheadings are complete sentences, a closing period.
  • The first heading in an article should follow at least one opening paragraph. This heading should not be “Introduction.”
  • At least one paragraph of content should follow each heading. Headings should never directly follow one another.
  • A bulleted or numbered list should not immediately follow a heading. An introductory paragraph should precede a list.
homonyms
Avoid using homonyms—words that have the same spelling, but different meanings—in immediate succession—for example, is, is or that that.
hyphens
  • Use a hyphen to join a prefix to a root word only if
    • the root is a proper noun or adjective—for example, pre-World Wide Web
    • the prefix and root together form a homograph—for example, re-create and recreate
    • joining the prefix and root would result in doubling a vowel—that is, the prefix ends and the root begins with the same vowel—and standard usage does not dictate the omission of the hyphen (When in doubt about whether to hyphenate, consult The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language.)
  • Use a hyphen to join compound words—for example, self-discipline.
  • When necessary for clarity, use a hyphen to join temporary compounds in which the hyphen joins two words to show their syntactical relationship to one another—for example, industry-standard term.
  • Hyphenation is unnecessary when capitalization or italics makes the relationships of adjectives clear.
  • To help readers differentiate a compound adjective that modifies a noun as a unit from two consecutive adjectives, each independently modifying the noun, hyphenate a compound adjective that precedes a noun, especially when
    • confusion could result if the hyphen were omitted—for example, read-only memory
    • the second word is a past or present participle—for example, color-coded sections
    • the two modifiers consist of either a number or a single letter and a noun or a participle—for example, 32-bit color or T-shaped person
  • When using a spelled-out unit of measure in a compound adjective, hyphenate the compound—for example, 3.5-inch floppy disk. However, do not hyphenate
    when using an abbreviation or a metric unit of measure—for example, KB, MB, GB, or mm.
  • Hyphenate location compounds such as lower-left corner and top-right part.
  • Never use a hyphen following an adverb ending in -ly—for example, recently completed project.
  • Don’t hyphenate compounds that include very—for example, very high resolution.
  • Hyphenate keyboard shortcuts that use combination keystrokes to indicate that a user should hold down the first key or keys while pressing the last key—for example, Shift-Control-V, but do not hyphenate if a user should press and release each key separately—for example, Esc S. However, if a key name in a combination keystroke is itself two words, use an en dash instead of a hyphen—for example, Option–Right Bracket, Command–Option–Up Arrow, Shift–double-click, or Command–Shift–double-click.
  • Abbreviations of compounds constitute single words, so hyphenate them rather than using an en dash—for example, U.S.-U.K. cooperation.
  • Hyphenate a compound adjective only when it precedes the noun it modifies—for example, high-volume list.
  • Use a hyphen to join compound numbers and fractions when spelling them out—for example, twenty-one or two-thirds.

I

IA
Acronym for information architecture. Note case. Use this acronym only where proper nouns or space constraints require it. Define the acronym on first use, as follows: information architecture (IA).
icon
Refers to a graphic user interface element that does not have the three-dimensional appearance of a button, but acts like a button—that is, causes something to occur when a user clicks it.
if
Do not use when you mean whether.
information architecture
When referring to the practice of information architecture, do not capitalize, except when referring to an organization, group, or title. Abbreviate as IA.
in order to
Avoid using this verbose form. Use to instead.
insertion point
Refers to the point at which a user types or inserts data. A vertical blinking bar marks the insertion point. Do not use cursor. Compare cursor, pointer.
instructions
  • Use when describing how someone should perform the steps in a procedure. Do not use directions.
  • When providing instructions that comprise multiple steps, use a numbered list.
  • Indicate each action users should take in a numbered step.
  • If necessary provide the results of a step in a separate paragraph following the step.
insure
Do not use when you mean ensure.
interaction design
When referring to the practice of interaction design, do not capitalize, except when referring to an organization, group, or title. Abbreviate as IxD.
Internet
Always capitalize.
introductions
UXmatters articles do not open with sections titled “Introduction.”
irregardless
Do not use. Use regardless instead.
italics
  • Use italics for emphasis. Limit emphasis to only a word or two. Do not use all caps, bold, or underlined text for emphasis.
  • Use italics for thoughts and questions within other sentences.
  • You can use italics for dialogue.
  • Always italicize
    • foreign words
    • words or phrases when referring to them as words or phrases, respectively
    • letters or numbers when referring to them as letters or numbers, respectively
    • values a user is to type or has typed in a user interface, including search strings
    • titles of books and CD-ROM discs
    • UXmatters and the titles of Web sites and blogs
    • titles of columns on UXmatters
    • titles of Web pages that are in title case—and, for consistency, other Web page titles in the same article with such italicized page titles
IxD
Abbreviation for interaction design. Note case. Use this abbreviation only where proper nouns or space constraints require it. Define the abbreviation on first use, as follows: interaction design (IxD).
IxDA
Abbreviation for Interaction Design Association. Do not use the preceding IxDA unless IxDA qualifies a noun—for example, the IxDA mailing list.

J

justification
Noun—Refers to the alignment of lines of text flush with both the left and right margins. Justification is one type of alignment. Do not use when you mean alignment. Compare alignment.
justify
Verb—Use only when describing the alignment of text on both the left and right margins. Otherwise, use align. Compare align.
justified
Adj.—Use only when describing text that is aligned on both the left and right margins. Otherwise, use aligned. Compare aligned.

K

L

labeling
Note spelling with only one l. Not labelling.
labels
  • Labels for text boxes and list boxes should be either above the box or to the left and right aligned, in bold type, and have a closing colon.
  • Labels for check boxes, option buttons, and radio buttons are to the right and usually have no closing punctuation—though they sometimes have a closing period.
  • Labels for all form elements, including text boxes, list boxes, check boxes, option buttons, and radio buttons, should use sentence-style capitalization.
  • Labels for buttons should be centered, in title caps, and in bold.
  • When referring to a label in an article, it should be in bold type.
Latin words and phrases
Generally, avoid using them.
less
Use when referring to a smaller amount of something—for example, less text on a page, less work, or less energy. Do not use when you mean fewer. Compare fewer. See also amount.
links
  • Generally, limit the length of links to short phrases. Avoid creating links that comprise very long phrases or entire sentences—unless the latter are very short.
  • Generally, do not include articles in links that are not complete sentences, unless they are necessary for clarity.
  • For links in navigation bars, use title caps.
  • A link should not comprise a URL.
list box
Do not use box.
log in
Verb—Two words. If appropriate, say log in to.
login
Noun—One word. No hyphenation.
log-in
Adj.—Hyphenated.
lower left, lower right
Noun—Two words. No hyphenation.
lower-left, lower-right
Adj.—Hyphenated.

M

may
Use to express possibility or permission. Compare can, might.
menu bar
Two words. Not action bar.
menu item
Refers to an item on a menu that is not a command—for example, a document in a list of open documents. See also command.
message
When referring to an email message, use email message on the first occurrence; then on subsequent occurrences, use message, not email. See also email message.
message
In Windows, refers to a message box that asks a user to confirm an action, notifies a user of an event, or informs a user of an error condition. Compare alert.
might
Use to connote greater doubt about the outcome than may does or to eliminate the ambiguity that the two very different meanings of may could introduce. Compare can, may.
mobile phone
Not cell phone or cellular phone.

N

navigation bar
Do not use navbar.
number
Use when referring to a quantity that is measurable—for example, the number of images, the number of pixels, the number of lines of text, or the number of people. Do not use when you mean amount. Compare amount. See also fewer.
numbered lists
  • Use numbered lists only to indicate the order is which the steps of a task should be performed, to suggest the chronological order in which events occur, or to indicate the relative importance of the items in a list.
  • An introductory sentence or clause should always precede a numbered list—that is, it should not immediately follow a section heading.
  • A numbered list must always comprise two or more items; never a single item.
  • Items in a numbered list should have parallel structures. See also parallel structures.
  • Each item in a numbered list should have an initial capital.
  • If a numbered list comprises more than one level, use Arabic numerals for the first level and lowercase letters for the second level.
numbers
  • Generally, spell out cardinal numbers from zero through ten. Exceptions to this rule:
    • When expressing a number as a number, use a numeral.
    • For measurements, always use numerals.
    • When indicating a range, use numerals. When indicating a range of years, express the years in full—for example, 1994–1999. An en dash (–) should separate the numerals in a range. See also en dashes.
    • When expressing statistics, always use numerals.
    • When two or more numbers appear in the same sentence and at least one of the numbers is greater than ten, use numerals for all of the numbers.
  • Try to avoid starting a sentence with a number, but if you cannot, spell out the number.
  • Generally, spell out ordinal numbers from one through ten. For ordinal numbers greater than ten, add st, nd, rd, or th, as appropriate.
  • Use commas to set off numbers of five digits or more.
  • When referring to decades, express the year with which a decade begins in full and form the plural by adding ’s—for example, 1980’s.

O

OK
Do not use, except as a button label. Use okay instead.
okay
Not OK, except as a button label.
only
The meaning of a sentence can depend on the position of a modifier. Be sure only modifies that which you intend. For example: We design only software user interfaces. Not: We only design software user interfaces. The latter means that’s all you ever do.
open
Use to describe a window, application, document, file, or expandable area of a window that is currently displayed on the screen.
option button
In Windows, refers to an onscreen button that lets users select an option from a mutually exclusive option group. Do not use when referring to a radio button in Mac OS X or Web applications. The labels for option buttons usually use sentence-style capitalization. Therefore, when referring to an option button in an article, use bold type—not quotation marks—to set off the label from the surrounding text. Compare radio button. See also check box.

P

page titles
Use title caps for page titles. When referring to a specific page in text, use the following format: [Page Title] page. Note the case of the word page, following the page title. At least one paragraph of content should follow each page title, preceding the first section heading on a page.
paper
Do not use when referring to articles that appear on UXmatters. Compare article.
parallel structure
Parallel words, clauses, or phrases have similar grammatical constructions—for example, all might be nouns or verbs; words, clauses, phrases, or full sentences. Use parallel structure in bulleted lists, the steps of procedures, table headers, section headings, and lists of links—for example, for the links in a navigation bar—and for the labels of controls within a group—for example, radio buttons or command buttons. If it is not possible to maintain parallel construction throughout a menu or navigation bar, group commands or links that have similar constructions together.
parentheses
  • Within a sentence, use parentheses only to set off an acronym or abbreviation being defined for future use, the definition of an acronym or abbreviation, the translation of a foreign word, or a reference to a figure—for example, information architecture (IA), VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), or (Figure 2). To set off parenthetical phrases, use em dashes instead. Compare em dashes.
  • Use parentheses to set off one or more sentences that are not closely related to the rest of a paragraph. Place the closing punctuation for such a sentence within the closing parenthesis.
part numbers
If an article comprises multiple parts, use Roman numerals for its part numbers—for example, Part III. A colon should follow a part number. In cross references, do not include the word Part or the part number in quotation marks.
passive voice
Assiduously avoid the use of passive voice.
periods
  • When using a period as the closing punctuation for a declarative, imperative, or incomplete sentence, a single space follows the period.
  • Do not use a period following an article’s title, run-in heads, table headers,
  • Generally, do not use a period following a subheading, figure caption, or table caption. Exception: In rare cases where these must be complete sentences, use a closing period.
  • Do not use a closing period following bulleted-list items that are sentence fragments.
  • Periods should precede closing quotation marks.
  • When using periods in abbreviations such as U.S. or et al., never double the abbreviating period with a closing period. However, a comma can follow an abbreviating period.
pointer
Refers to the arrow, I-beam, crosshair, or other shape that follows the movement of the mouse or another pointing device on the screen. Do not use arrow or arrow pointer except when describing a particular type of pointer. Do not use cursor. Do not use mouse pointer, because other types of pointing devices also control the pointer. Compare arrow, cursor, insertion point.
possessives
Avoid using possessive forms of brand names or other trademarks—for example, Apple’s, Google’s, iPod’s, or Photoshop’s. Doing so violates trademark guidelines.
prepositions
Avoid the use of terminal prepositions if you can do so without making a sentence sound strained.
pull-quotes
Pull-quotes highlight some of the big ideas in an article. Pull-quotes are brief and usually comprise just one or two sentences. In long sections, there should be a pull-quote following each section heading and another about halfway through the section. Short sections usually include a single pull-quote, following the section heading. However, if a section comprises only a single paragraph or a brief introductory paragraph and a bulleted list, include a pull-quote in every other section. Do not place pull-quotes immediately preceding or in the midst of a bulleted list or immediately preceding or following a figure or table. Enclose pull-quotes within quotation marks. Regardless of whether you’re quoting a complete sentence from an article, the first word of a pull-quote is always capitalized, and it has closing punctuation—usually a closing period. If you omit part of a sentence, do not use an ellipsis at the beginning or end of the pull-quote, but do indicate an omission in the middle of a pull-quote with an ellipsis.
punctuation
  • Good punctuation promotes ease of reading.
  • To avoid multiple punctuation, give precedence to a question mark or exclamation point and omit a period or comma. Neither a period—other than an abbreviating period—nor a comma should ever accompany a question mark or an exclamation point. For example, a quotation ending with a question mark or exclamation point that precedes its attribution should use this syntax: “[Quotation[?/!]]” [Attribution].
  • For more information about punctuation, see the following:

Q

question marks
  • When using a question mark within a sentence to close a direct question, capitalize the word that begins the question. In such a case, a comma should not follow the question mark.
  • Do not use a question mark to close an indirect question. If such a question comprise only a single word such as who, when, how, or why, italicize the word.
  • Closing question marks that are part of a quotation should precede closing quotation marks.
  • Question marks that are not part of a quotation should follow closing quotation marks.
quotation marks (‘ ’ “ ”)
  • Enclose section headings and the titles of articles, book chapters, and Web pages within quotation marks.
  • Do not enclose words or phrases that are not quotations in quotation marks.
  • Do not enclose labels in quotation marks. Use bold text instead.
  • Commas, periods, and any closing question marks or exclamation points that are part of a quotation should precede closing quotation marks.
  • Colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points that are not part of a quotation should follow closing quotation marks.
  • Use curly single and double quotation marks. Use these character codes for
    • opening single quotation marks: …
    • closing single quotation marks: ’
    • opening double quotation marks: “
    • closing double quotation marks: ”
quotations
  • In direct quotations, precisely reproduce the exact text from the original source.
  • However, it is permissible to make the following changes to make a quotation fit smoothly into the context in which it is quoted:
    • Change single quotation marks to double quotation marks or vice versa.
    • Insert an interpolation within square brackets to clarify ambiguous text or provide missing words or letters that are essential for clarity or grammatical correctness and convey the original author’s meaning.
    • Use an ellipsis (…) to indicate the omission of one or more words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs. When indicating the omission of one or more paragraphs, use an ellipsis (…) following the paragraph that precedes the omission and another preceding the paragraph that follows the omission. Insert a space preceding and following an ellipsis. Use the character code … for ellipses. See also ellipses.
    • Omit punctuation surrounding an omission. However, if necessary for clarity, retain the punctuation preceding or following an ellipsis within a sentence. When using an ellipsis between sentences, retain the closing punctuation of the preceding sentence.
    • Change the case of the first letter or the first letter following an omission.
    • Change the closing punctuation.
    • Omit references to notes that occur in the original source.
    • Add references to notes.
    • Correct a typographical error.
    • Generally, it is permissible to make a silent correction to a minor factual, spelling, or grammatical error, paraphrasing the original quotation and correcting the error. However, in cases where it is not, use [sic] following such an error in a quotation. Sic is in italics, but the square brackets are not.
    • Use italics to call attention to a word or phrase within a quotation, adding (emphasis mine) within parentheses, following the quotation or in a source note following the quotation. However, if there were italics in the original quotation, insert [emphasis mine] in brackets within the quotation instead, immediately following the italicized text. Do not italicize the notice that you’ve italicized text.

R

radio button
In Mac OS X and Web applications, refers to an onscreen button that lets users select an option from a mutually exclusive option group. Do not use when referring to an option button in Windows. The labels for radio buttons usually use sentence-style capitalization. Therefore, when referring to a radio button in an article, use bold type—not quotation marks—to set off the label from the surrounding text. Compare check box, option button.
refer
Verb—Use refer to instead of reference.
reference
Noun—Do not use as a verb. Use refer to instead.
regardless
Do not use irregardless. Use regardless of whether instead.
regards
Do not use with regards to unless you mean offering your regards to someone. Use in regard to instead.
Roman
Adj.—Capitalize when referring to Roman numerals. See also Arabic.

S

sections
Be sure to break up an article into sections and subsections whenever the topic of discussion shifts. You can create up to three levels of sections and subsections with section headings. Creating sections and subsections helps authors organize the information in their articles logically. See also headings.
select
A user selects an option in a dialog box, but chooses an item on a menu. On a Mac, a user selects a disk icon, a graphic image, or text, then chooses a command to act on the selection.
semicolons
  • Use semicolons rather than commas to separate clauses or items in a series that contain internal punctuation such as commas or em dashes.
  • Consider using a bulleted list instead of a long sentence comprising many clauses joined by semicolons.
  • Between two independent clauses, a semicolon—or alternatively, an em dash—should precede transitional adverbs such as accordingly, besides, hence, however, indeed, then, therefore, and thus.
  • To indicate a break in thought or construction, use an em dash instead of a semicolon.
  • Avoid using a semicolon in place of a period—for example, between two independent clauses that are not joined by a conjunction. Two shorter sentences are generally preferable.
  • Semicolons that are not part of a quotation should follow closing quotation marks.
sentences
Avoid overly long, unnecessarily complex sentences—particularly compound sentences in which semicolons join what could be two or more sentences.
set up
Verb—Two words.
setup
Noun—One word. No hyphenation.
set-up
Adj.—Hyphenated.
shaded
Use to describe the appearance of a check box that represents a mixture of settings.
shortcut menu
Refers to the menu that appears when a user right-clicks an item on the screen on a PC or Control-clicks an item on the Mac. Not context menu, contextual menu, or right-click menu.
sign in
Verb—Two words. If appropriate, say sign in to.
signin
Noun—One word. No hyphenation.
sign-in
Adj.—Hyphenated.
sign up
Verb—Two words.
signup
Noun—One word. No hyphenation.
sign-up
Adj.—Hyphenated.
since
Generally, use when you mean during a period subsequent to a prior event, not when you mean because. Compare because.
site
Use Web site on the first occurrence in a section. Use site on subsequent occurrences in the same section.
slashes
Use a slash to signify alternatives, as in and/or.
software
Refers generically to applications and other computer programs. See also application.
submenu
Not cascading menu.
subscribe
Use when referring to subscribing to the UXmatters newsletter.
subscriber
Use when referring to someone who subscribes to the UXmatters newsletter. Do not use member.

T

table captions
A table caption precedes each table and has the following format: Table [#]—[Caption text]. An em dash follows the table number. Table captions use sentence-style capitalization and have no closing period.
table references
Refer to each table within the text of an article. For example, you can use the following types of table references:
  • Table [#] …
  • …, as Table [#] shows
  • …, as shown in Table [#]
  • (See Table [#].)
tables
Tables must display properly within a maximum width of 474 pixels—though their width will expand to fill the available width on a page. Create tables that work within this size constraint. Tables are always left aligned with a table caption immediately preceding them and a table reference within the preceding text. See also table captions and table references.
tack
Note spelling. Not tact.
tenets
Note spelling. Not tenants.
that
Do not overuse. Omit that where sentences are clear without it. Use that to introduce a restrictive clause, which identifies a particular item or category and is not set off by commas. For a nonrestrictive clause, use which instead. See also which.
titles
An article title can include a subtitle, following a colon. Use title caps for titles of articles. With the possible exception of a question mark, a title has no closing punctuation.
top left, top right
Do not use. Use upper left and upper right instead.
toward
Not towards.

U

unavailable
Use to describe a menu item, button, or an option in a dialog box or on a Web page that a user cannot currently choose or select, because certain conditions do not exist. Do not use dimmed, disabled, or inactive. Compare dimmed. See also available.
underlining
Use only for links. Do not use for emphasis.
upper left, upper right
Noun—Two words. No hyphenation.
upper-left, upper-right
Adj.—Hyphenated.
URL
Do not use. Use Web address instead.
user-centered, user centered (adj.)
Hyphenate when it precedes a noun; do not hyphenate when it follows a noun. Use the American spelling.
user-centered design
Note hyphenation. Use the American spelling.
user experience
Noun—Do not use the abbreviation UX as a noun. Capitalize User Experience only when referring to a UX team within an organization.
user interface elements
When referring to the elements of a user interface on a particular platform, use the proper terminology, as defined by the manufacturer’s style guidelines. For example:
  • box
  • check box
  • list box
  • option button
  • radio button
  • text box
units of measurement
For measurements in inches or feet, spell out inches and feet. Hyphenate a measurement when using it as an adjective—for example, a 17-inch monitor.
UX
Adj.—Use this abbreviation for user experience only as an adjective. As a noun, use user experience instead.

V

W

we
Plural pronoun. Do not use the kingly we.
Web
Abbreviation for World Wide Web. Always capitalize Web when referring to the World Wide Web.
Web address
Do not use URL, Internet address, or address alone when referring to a Web address. Note case.
Web browser
Note case.
Web site
Two words. Always capitalize Web. Use the full term on its first occurrence in a section. Use site on subsequent occurrences in the same section.
whereas
Do not use. Use while instead.
which
Use which to introduce either a nonrestrictive clause, which adds information about an item or category and is set off with commas or em dashes, or a restrictive clause that is preceded by a preposition and is not set off with commas or em dashes—for example, in which or through which. Compare that.
while
Use to refer to something that occurs concurrently. Do not use when you mean although. Not whilst. Compare because.
white paper
Two words.
white space
Two words.
window
Compare alert, dialog box, message box.
workgroup
One word. Note case.
World Wide Web
Note capitalization. Typically, abbreviate as the Web.

X

Y

Z

Questions?

If you have any questions about the UXmatters Style and Usage Guide, please contact UXmatters, at info at uxmatters dot com.

Other References

For language usage that this style guide does not cover, please refer to the following online references: