• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint


fact checking

Before content is published, and after it’s been edited, it should be fact-checked. Often, in the course of writing, revising, and editing content, numbers, dates, names, and quotes can be entered incorrectly or changed during the editing process in subtle but meaningful ways. The best way to rid content of such errors is to check each fact methodically once the content is in final, about-to-be-published form.

The best way to fact-check content is to print out the text, read it line by line, and make a physical checkmark next to every verifiable fact after comparing it with an original source. The fact-checkers (often the writers) should force themselves to do this even when they are sure that the copy is right. This requires a mental switch to an adversarial role: You need to look at each statement and fact and ask questions such as, “Says who?” and, “Is the writer really sure about this?”

If a company or other organization is named, for instance, check the organization’s website to make sure the name is correctly spelled and punctuated. The US consumer-goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble, for instance, frequently has its name mangled online and off, with an “and” instead of the ampersand, and with the first word spelled “Proctor” rather than “Procter.”

If the organization has no website, a printed reference from the company—an annual report, a brochure, or a business card—is the best check. To rely on a secondary source such as a Web article, newspaper, or magazine is to ask for trouble, and risk perpetuating others’ mistakes. If secondary sources must be used, you should try to find several, and make sure they agree.

The same degree of care should be taken with names, numbers, titles, and Web addresses. A useful trick with Web addresses is to copy the address and paste it into a browser to see whether it actually goes to the intended website. Another useful piece of simple advice is to always check “millions” and “billions” and make sure you haven’t mixed them up.


Lowercase. In British English, autumn.


Stands for frequently asked questions, a document where the most commonly asked questions from readers are listed along with answers. They are ideal for providing support information and can reduce support demands on your staff.

farewell message

See [unsubscribe]

See [bookmark]

A feature might be a specific document or general area on the site that you want to promote. Features are a publishing technique. The editor decides what product, service, or event to promote, and then provides the content that can be used as promotion.

Examples of features could be found on most news websites during the 2000 Olympics and the 2001 US presidential election. A major slice of the homepage was allocated to these features, with links and news summaries. After the events, these features were removed from the homepages.


Feedback is critical to the success of any website. It is vital to know which content is working and which is not, and how the purchase process, search, navigation, forms, and other elements are performing. Without feedback, people could be leaving your website in frustration and you will never know. On the Web, an active strategy for feedback needs to be in place, because unlike the bricks-and-mortar store, customers’ reactions and feelings are hard to gauge. To create a well-designed site, you need proper feedback from and usability testing of your readers.

A quality feedback process involves making people aware that their feedback is valued; actively reaching out to the customer, for example by asking them questions when they complete a process; hosting well-moderated discussion boards or mailing lists; offering prizes or extra services for fully completed feedback forms and participation in focus groups; and replying to people promptly, thanking them, and answering any queries raised in their feedback.

fewer, less

Fewer should be used with something that can be counted and is used with plural nouns. Less refers to degree or amount—something measurable but not countable, such as effort—and is used with singular nouns.

Fewer accidents were reported.

Less effort was required.

file extension

The tag used to identify a file, usually a period followed by between two and four letters. When referring to a particular file extension, show the extension in lowercase, preceded by a period, for example

Microsoft Word files are indicated by the .doc extension.

When referring to files in general by their extension types, use uppercase and don’t precede the extension with a period, for example

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read PDF files.

File Transfer Protocol

See [FTP]

One word.

file-naming conventions

To help the successful organization of your site, you should ensure that files are named consistently and correctly.

Filenames should be in lowercase, without gaps (use underscores where names are split), and shouldn’t exceed 50 characters. Above all, filenames should be descriptive.


A firewall is a security system intended to protect an organization’s network against unauthorized users.

first, firstly in enumerations

First, second, third in enumerations in American English, firstly, secondly, thirdly in British English.


A technology supplied by Macromedia to generate visually rich animations on the Web. Has become synonymous with over-design. Flash can be very useful where the features of a product need to be demonstrated in a visual way, or where a visual representation of content is much more useful than a text version. However, Flash is greatly abused by designers who don’t understand the Web, thinking of it like a TV or glossy magazine medium. It is not.

floppy disk

Also referred to simply as a floppy, and less frequently now as a diskette.


Choose sans serif fonts, such as Verdana, Arial, and Univers, if possible, as such fonts use straight lines and are thus easier to read on screen. Serif fonts, on the other hand, use a lot of curves, which tend to read poorly on a screen, particularly at smaller font sizes. Because it’s harder to read text on a screen, avoid using small font sizes. Small quantities of text on homepages can be presented as small as 8-point font. However, for body text in a document, you shouldn’t use any lower than 10 point.

The font color should be black, except for headings, where a different color can be used. If another font color is used, ensure it’s a dark font on a light background.

See also [color]


A footer contains essential links and information about an organization and should be placed at the bottom of every page of the site. The footer should be clearly separated from the rest of the content on the page through appropriate spacing and/or a line going across the page.

The footer should begin with the global navigation as a set of text links. There are two reasons for this. First, by the time the reader has scrolled down to the end of the page, the global navigation links provided at the top might no longer be visible. Second, global navigation at the top of the page is often in graphical form. Providing a text version improves the accessibility of the page and could improve your listing on a search engine.

See accessibility search engine registration and optimization.

Other necessary elements in the footer include ecommerce navigation, if there is ecommerce available; contact information—including email, phone, fax, and physical address (if there are more than two contact points, provide a link to a contact page); a Terms of use link, a privacy policy link, a copyright statement (“Copyright © 1995–2001 Example Company. All rights reserved”), which links to a full copyright statement, if appropriate. See Figure 3.2.

Figure 3.2. A sample footer

See also [Terms of use statement]
See also [privacy policy]
See also [copyright]

foreign currencies

Although many sites originally used only international foreign currency codes (USD) and not money symbols ($) on Webpages, more and more sites are now using money symbols as there is less likelihood that a reader’s browser will not be able to display them. Whichever you choose, apply it consistently.

For plain-text formats, such as email, use the foreign currency code, not the symbol:

Daily online sales pass $200 million for first time. [Webpage]

Daily online sales pass USD 200 million for first time. [email]

For symbols, you can use the $ symbol on its own if it’s clear that it’s for the US dollar, but identify all other types of dollar, for example CAN$, etc. (If, however, the site is an intranet for an Australian company with only Australian-based employees, for example, then the use of the $ symbol on its own to mean an Australian dollar would be sufficient as there’s no potential for confusion.)

The following European Union member states have adopted the common European currency (the euro): Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, and Finland. Initially, provide amounts for these countries in euros as well as in their own currencies. From 2002, the euro will be the only currency you need to quote for these countries. For updated information, see the European Union website (http://europa.eu.int/euro).

Here are some of the most frequently used currencies, codes, and symbols:

Australian dollar A$ AUD
Brazil real R$ BRL
Canadian dollar Can$ CAD
Chinese yuan Y CNY
Danish krone DKr DKK
Euro (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain) EUR
French franc Fr and € FRF
German mark DM and € DEM
Hong Kong dollar HK$ HKD
Indian rupee Re INR
Indonesian rupiah Rp IDR
Irish punt IR£ and € IEP
Israeli shekel I£/ NIS ILS
Japanese yen ¥ JPY
Mexican peso Mex$ MXN
New Zealand dollar NZ$ NZD
Norwegian krone NKr NOK
South African rand R ZAR
Swedish krona SKr SEK
Swiss franc Sw F CHF
UK pound (sterling) £ GBP
US dollar $ [US$] USD

For a full list, see the Foreign Money section in the United States Government Printing Office Style Manual available online at www.access.gpo.gov/styleman/2000/browse-sm-00.html


Avoid using non-standard technologies that require viewing with either plug-ins or stand-alone applications as they can cause accessibility problems. When inaccessible technologies must be used, provide equivalent accessible pages if possible.

If the reader clicks a link, they expect to go to an HTML page. If it’s a non-HTML page, inform them in advance. Tell them they are linking to an audio file, PDF, etc., and inform them of the size of that file. Provide a link to a copy of the necessary software if available online.

See also [accessibility]


Italics can be hard to read on screen and therefore should be avoided in general text, particularly when used in conjunction with small fonts. Bold (particularly colored bold) can be mistaken for a link. Underlining will be taken for a link. See the entries under italics and bold for more information on this, including when to use either.

Use regular font (not bold, not italics) in quotation marks for article titles, report titles, chapter titles, and shorter poems. Use regular font for website names:

You can find the information on FT.com.


Forms are used to collect information from a reader in a structured manner that ensures all essential information is collected. For example, when someone is subscribing to a service on a website, they should be asked to fill in a form, which will request, among other things, their email address.

With a form, the email address is hidden. Therefore you should also use forms for contact information because you can collect specific information and it prevents spammers from collecting (harvesting) your email addresses with special software.

  • Keep forms short: We all hate filling out forms. It’s a fact of life. So, keep every form as short and as simple as possible. Collect only essential information. If your form is long, break it up into a number of pages to avoid putting off the reader.

  • Opinion questions first: Readers are more open to giving their opinion, so place the opinion-type questions up front and ask the demographic-type questions toward the end of the form.

  • Mandatory fields: Clearly mark the mandatory fields by way of font color or use of asterisks, and inform the reader what signifies a mandatory field. Be careful not to mandate information that certain readers cannot provide. For example, if the form is to be filled out by an international readership, don’t make a ZIP code obligatory.

  • Errors: The process should check for obvious errors. For example, if the email address input has more than three characters at its end it’s likely to be a mistake—mary@abcd.comm, the final “m” being a mistake. We all make errors when filling out forms, and it’s very frustrating to have the entire form returned to hunt for the error. Isolate the error for the reader if possible. For example, if the reader forgot to fill out their email address, inform them:

    Your email address has not been filled out. Please go back and fill it out.

  • Answer field size: Ensure the answer field has enough room in it for the input being asked. For example, don’t have a small field when asking for address information, as some people have quite long addresses. Arial is the recommended font for forms, as it is a narrow font, thus allowing the maximum number of characters to be input into the minimum space.

  • Accessibility: Allow people using assistive technology to access all the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.

  • Test: Test your forms regularly with dummy data to make sure they are working properly.

See also [harvest]


See [discussion board]
forward, forwards

Forward in American English, forwards in British English.

forward slash (/)

Also known as an oblique stroke or a solidus, the forward slash is sometimes used to indicate a period extending over two calendar years. It can also be used to indicate alternatives. Place no spacing either side of the slash:



See also [dates]


Hyphens are used when fractions are expressed in words:

two-thirds of the respondents

A mixed number is not spelled out:

2½, not two and a half


Frames break up a Webpage into two or more distinct sections. It’s like having a website within a website. In the words of usability design expert Jakob Nielsen. “Frames: Just Say No.”

Netscape invented frames, and within days the entire Netscape website was using frames. There was so much negative reader feedback that within weeks the Netscape website got rid of its frames. It never used them again.

What’s so wrong with frames? Well, they can cause problems with bookmarking, the Back button, and printing. They are more likely to have buggy code due to their level of technical difficulty. Search engines often get confused trying to index frames-based websites. They tend to take longer to download, and they can create accessibility problems. Need we go on?

So, is there ever a time when frames make sense? Yes. When it is of fundamental importance that a piece of navigation is kept permanently on the screen.

If you insist on using frames, ensure each frame is titled in order to facilitate navigation and frame identification, and provide a non-framed version also.

See also [accessibility]


Software that is free to use. Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator are examples of freeware.


See [publication schedule]
front end, front-end

Two words as a noun (the front end), hyphenated as an adjective (front-end software). The front end is the part of an application that users interact with.

See also [back end]


Stands for File Transfer Protocol, a basic Internet protocol used for copying files to and from computer systems.

full stop

The British English word for a period.

See also [period]



Not a subscriber?

Start A Free Trial

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint