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Research Guides: Guidelines for Creating/Revising Guides: Style & Naming

Tips, suggestions, templates and best practices for creating libguides

When to Use a LibGuide

Use a LibGuide to provide:

  • Research guidance for a particular Yale course;
  • Instructions on how to research a very narrow, definable subject;
  • Local documentation for a specific research tool or service; or
  • Instructions on accessing and using specific Yale collections or resources.

For General Style Guidelines

For general style guidelines, including punctuation and grammar, consult the Chicago Manual of Style, available online at

Write for the Web

Think journalism instead of academic writing.  Journalism presents the most important information and the conclusions first, then gradually fills in background information.  This technique is referred to as the “inverted pyramid.”  Academic writing starts with the background information and presents conclusions at the end.

Be blunt and minimize the word count.  Less is more.  Eric Idle once commented that he’s “against those who give vent to their loquacity through extraneous bombastic circumlocution.”  Be the same way.

Use headings.  Headings allow users to scan pages and provide keywords for readers.  Statements and questions are good headings.  A single noun is not always helpful as a heading.  Getting started with your research is a more helpful heading than Research.

Use bulleted lists whenever possible.  Be careful of the order of your bullets.  Put the most important information at the top of the list.  Keep in mind that the bottom-most bullet gets a little more attention than the ones just above it.

Avoid jargon.  Try to avoid using jargon or library-specific terminology.  Circulation, borrowing an item, and checking out a book all mean pretty much the same thing.  Go with the non-jargon term, even if it’s not 100% exactly what you want to say for that moment.

Use imperativesGo to the circulation desk is preferred over You will have to go to the circulation desk.

Start conditionals with the if, then present the thenIf you are not a Yale student, consult with a staff member at the information desk is preferred over Consult with a staff member at the information desk if you are not a Yale student.

Use consistent language.  Standardize terms and use them consistently.  See the section below titled Preferred terminology for examples of standardized terms. 

Use the correct HTML markup.  Use <h3> to create a heading instead of just changing the font size and weight.

Keep your content up-to-date.  Add new links as they become available.  Links to recent material makes your content seem fresh and relevant.

Keep content conducive to search engine discovery.  Not all readers will have the context of discovering your content through planned navigation.  Make sure that readers who get dropped on your page from a search engine can get their bearings.

Follow a consistent pattern.  Notice that this whole section follows a pattern.  There’s an imperative statement in bold followed by more information about that statement in standard type.  If you can organize your content so that it follows a pattern, do it.