Content Management System

Writing for the Web — Content Guidelines

With hundreds of different individuals collaborating to create websites under the UCR.edu domain, it is important that everyone follow the same standards to ensure consistent imaging and branding.

These tips for creating content and points of emphasis can help you create great content for your site, while staying within the university's style guidelines.

If you have a specific question about the correct way to write something, please review our Online Web Style Guide.

Questions, comments or suggestions for future revisions should be directed to the Web Development Team in the Office of Strategic Communications.

Tips for Creating Content

Before You Begin

Before you begin creating written and visual content for a website, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is your audience? Who are trying to reach with your message?
  • What is your message? What are you trying to get across?
  • What should happen after this message is delivered? What are your goals?

Remember the Visitor has Come to Your Site for a Reason

Visitors have something they want to do when they come to your website. They are there either to do an action or to find information. It is your job to anticipate what they will want to do and help them to do it.

Your Visitor is in a Hurry

Time is valuable, and visitors to your website want to find what they are looking for and move on quickly. If they cannot do this, you risk losing them.

Most Visitors Scan Websites, They don't Read Every Word

Research shows that the majority of people scan Web copy, looking for key words or phrases. You must make your content conducive to scanning. That means breaking it into small, easily accessible and readable chunks. Headlines and subheads can further break up the content. Use bulleted lists instead of long, comma delimited lists.

Put the Important Content First

Don't bury your important information under several paragraphs of filler content. Keep top-level content simple and to the point and provide links to allow visitors to "drill down" to more specific items. Lead with your most important content, then elaborate. This will help your visitor find what they are looking for.

Use Links within Your Text

Incorporate your links within your text, rather than using phrases such as "click here" or "more." Having a sentence or a phrase as a link will make it clear to your visitor exactly what is going to happen when they click it.

Keep it Simple

The median reading level for an average American is the 8th grade. Also English is not the first language of many of our visitors. Finally, simple pages lend themselves to scanning. The following guidelines will help you help your visitors.

  • Keep your content simple and straightforward
  • Use terms your visitor will understand
  • Avoid jargon, overly formal language or highly technical terms at the highest levels of your site (These terms may be acceptable on lower level pages within the site, such as faculty pages or research-related pages, whose audiences will expect to find the language.)
  • Use keywords that your visitor will expect to find

Keep it Short

Use as few words as possible in your content. Keep your writing tight.

Proofread and Edit Your Copy

Check your facts and your spelling. Do not only rely on a computer spelling or grammar checker. Have somebody who is unfamiliar with your content check it for accuracy. It may be helpful to print your pages and proofread them away from the computer, as mistakes are often easier to find.

Writing Points of Emphasis

Abbreviations and Acronyms

You may use abbreviations that are common in standard English, such as site names (e.g., St. Louis), or names of states (use postal abbreviations, e.g. "CA" for California).
Avoid using non-standard or UCR-specific abbreviations.

Acronyms for facilities are not acceptable on first mentions, but may be used in subsequent mentions. For example: "The College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS) is the largest college at UCR. CHASS oversees..."

Bulleted Lists (Changed December 22, 2008)

These should be used whenever you are listing a large number of items, particularly if the items are links.

Here are the rules for creating a bulleted list:

  • Bullet lists should be introduced with a sentence which is closed with a colon.
  • The first word in a bulleted items is always capitalized.
  • The punctuation on the bulleted list depends upon the nature of the text. Complete sentences, or phrases that would complete a sentence when combined with the introduction, receive a period.
    • There may be multiple periods in a bulleted item.
    • Phrases that are not complete sentences or are part of a list do not require a period.

Copyright Violations

All information, images and intellectual properties are protected by law. Even though it may be easier to directly copy from another site, do not do so unless you get written permission from the site owner.

Dates and Times

The proper format is "a.m." and "p.m.", not capitalized and with periods. Days of the week and months of the year should be spelled out. 12 noon and 12 midnight should be noted as such, not 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.


They should be up style. E.g. UCR Revamps Website. Capitalization of all words, except for internal articles, prepositions, conjunctions and forms of to be (e.g. "is"). In general, when using the content management system, any headers H1 through H3 should be in up-style. H4 and below should be in down style.

Section Headlines should be no more than five to seven words and should not be in title case (capitalized).

Headlines should be compelling, simple and straightforward. Get to the point and state facts. Do not fall into the trap of trying to be clever.


In keeping with AP style, numbers lower than 10 should be spelled out. All two-digit or greater numbers should be presented numerically.

Publication Titles

Titles of publications should be italicized. This is different than the print standard. For example:
The Maltese Falcon
by Dashiell Hammett
The Supremes' Greatest Hits by Michael G. Trachtman
Gone With the Wind


Write in the first and second person when possible. Using "you" and other first person words personalizes your website for your visitor.


The phrases and underlined keywords are themes that our research shows our core audiences believe important. These themes should influence the your content as applicable.

For students

  • Opportunity for everyone
  • Access to excellence and real experience
  • Dynamic learning environment — "where it's happening" intellectually, culturally, socially
  • Supportive of students and alumni
  • Open to new ideas, perspectives, experiences (from internships to fun), people, and partners
  • Making a difference — locally and globally
  • Future-focused

For faculty

  • A community that attracts and cultivates excellence
  • High impact — dedicated to discovery and knowledge that make a difference
  • Empowering educators by providing support and resources
  • Uniquely collegial — educators and researchers who challenge, inspire, cultivate, and celebrate each other
  • Innovative — focused on the future
  • Transformative — Shaping the future of our students, our community, our region, and our world

For staff

  • A community that attracts, cultivates, and rewards excellence
  • High impact — dedicated to discovery and knowledge that make a difference
  • Engaging staff members as partners in a meaningful education and research mission
  • Innovative — focused on the future
  • Transformative — shaping the future of our students, our community, our region, and our world

For alumni

  • Ongoing opportunity for everyone
  • Dynamic and engaging learning environment - "where it's happening" intellectually, culturally, socially
  • Supportive/proud of and connected to alumni
  • Commitment to lifelong learning and relationship
  • Welcoming and accessible
  • Open to new ideas, perspectives, people, and partners
  • Making a difference — locally and globally
  • Future-focused

For donors and supporters

  • A smart investment that delivers tangible results
  • Excellence and impact across disciplines
  • A strong philanthropic partner for donors of every interest - from education and research to arts and culture to local impact and global solutions
  • An institution that enables philanthropic partners to make a difference
  • An institution that welcomes and values partnership and support of all kinds - from financial contributions to volunteered time, energy, and expertise
  • A responsible institution that invests philanthropic gifts wisely and strategically
  • Committed to cultivating long-term, mutually rewarding relationships with individual donors and supporters and private/public philanthropic organizations

About Branding

The following messages are the key components of the UCR Brand. You are encouraged to incorporate these themes and concepts, as applicable, to the highest levels of content in your site. These messages will help market the campus in a subtle fashion as your visitor finds the information they are looking for.

Remember that these are concepts and ideas. Not all of them will necessarily apply to your content, nor must they all appear on every page. Use them in a way that will advantage your organization and the University as a whole.

"UC Riverside embodies the promise of the Golden State by offering students the support, resources and inspiration to explore, discover and contribute new knowledge while they expand their own horizons. In a UC system known for its tradition of service and excellence, UCR's distinguishing characteristics are:

  • We are a UC of Opportunity — enabling students of every background and ambition, from first-generation college-goers to dedicated graduate researchers to achieve their goals and dreams.
  • We are a UC of Strategic Results — pioneering research with economic, scientific and social impact on the real-world challenges we face in California and beyond. We are a living laboratory for issues that affect virtually every aspect of quality of life, from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the food we eat, technologies we explore and art forms we pioneer.
  • We are a UC of Accessible Excellence — putting a superb education within every student's reach through strong core programs, new and emerging disciplines, and educators recognized for their dedication and high standards — and extending that excellence to our community.
  • We are the UC of Inland Southern California — catalyzing and serving the positive growth of our region by attracting great minds in the sciences and the arts, incubating new ideas, contributing to local quality of life and educating future citizens and leaders
  • We are a UC of the Future — a diverse, inclusive, globally focused community that reflects California's many cultures and perspectives; a university on the rise, powered by an entrepreneurial spirit, a record of innovation and a commitment to excellence and collaboration across disciplines.

More Information

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Riverside, CA 92521
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Content Management System Support
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E-mail: bearhelp@ucr.edu