WA Museum style guide with section for online writing

7 January 2010 — Draft 1.2

Table of Contents



Style Guide - General

Presentation and Style References

The essential authorities for aspects of presentation, style and usage, beyond the rules set out herein, are the current editions of the Macquarie Dictionary, Australian Oxford Dictionary, Australian Writers’ Dictionary and the Australian Government Publishing Service Style Manual (5th edn).


Leave only a single space between the end stop at the conclusion of one sentence and the beginning of the next sentence.

Preferred spellings

  • Correct spelling is essential – incorrect spelling and typos reflect badly on the organisation. Always check your work and get someone else to check it too. Remember that spellcheck will not pick up use of the wrong word, eg if you have written ‘hear’ instead of ‘here’.
  • ‘ise’ spelling rather than ‘ize’ (as in realise, except when they concern part of quoted text or the official name of an organisation — eg World Health Organization.)
  • ‘ll’ not ‘l’, (eg traveller not traveler)
  • ‘re’ not ‘er’, (eg centre, kilometre not center, kilometer)
  • ‘our’ not ‘or’, (eg colour not color, flavour not flavor, splendour not splendor)
  • Spellings of common words:
    program, not programme
    no-one, not no one
    cooperate, not co-operate; no one, not no-one, etc
    acknowledgement and judgement, not acknowledgment and judgment
    while and among, not whilst and amongst (generally, but latter have their uses)
    archaeology, foetus, not archeology, fetus, etc
    okay, not OK
    per cent, not percent or %
    south-east, not southeast
  • Web words:
    website not web site or web-site
    web page
    email, e-card, e-journal, e-learning
    podcast, vodcast, blog, vlog
    RSS feed
    internet (lower case “i”) – however ‘the web’ is preferred
  • ‘Aboriginal’ is the term preferred by the Museum Aboriginal Advisory Committee. In the Albany region only, the Aboriginal Advisory Committee has recommended that the term ‘Indigenous’ is preferred. (this point needs to be clarified by the advisory committee)
  • Show accents only where Oxford/Macquarie presents them; thus ‘cafe’ does not have an accent.
  • World War I, rather than First World War, etc.
  • With singular nouns ending in ‘s’ an extra ‘s’ should not be added after a possessive apostrophe — eg. Dickens’ novels, not Dickens’s novels.
  • privacy statement, copyright notice, conditions of use, conditions of purchase (all lower case)
  • placename spelling in English-speaking countries should not be changed, eg Pearl Harbor, not Pearl Harbour.

Apostrophes – common confusions

  • it’s (it is), its (belonging to it)
  • who’s (who is), whose (belonging to whom)
  • you’re (you are), your (belonging to you)
  • they’re (they are), their (belonging to them), there (place)
  • use 1990s, not 1990’s

Capital Letters

  • The Western Australian Museum should be referred to as the ‘Museum’ with a capital ‘M’ (do not use WAM).
  • When used in full, names of official government bodies are always given an initial capital. Lower case is used for the generic word (Australian Government, this system of government).
  • Use initial capitals for Museum events (National Science Week), exhibitions (Dinosaurs Alive), galleries (Mammal Gallery), publications (Ancient Floras of Western Australia), and specific job titles, (Manager, Media and Communications).
  • ‘State’ is capitalised when used to mean one of the territorial divisions of Australia, eg the State Government, but not when referring to an abstract entity, eg state control.
  • Capitals after colons: if it is a description (like this sentence) then lower case; if it is part of the heading title, make upper case (Country: Visions of Land and People in Western Australia).
  • Awards: lower case in general text, eg best supporting actress award, unless it has a specific name, eg Palm d’Or. 
  • In general all web media should have initial capitals, including Flash interactives, games, websites and so on.  However avoid italics or quotation marks for emphasis.

Initials, acronyms, contractions and abbreviations

  • Initials should be upper case, ie PDF, HTML, CD, DVD, GST, PC, USB, MP3, JPG, JPEG, GIF, PICT, WAV, MPEG
  • No full stops in between acronym letters, eg PhD, NSW

The following should be spelt out except where space is an issue:

  • eg: for example
  • ie: that is
  • etc: and so on
  • p, pp: page, pages
  • pb, hb: paperback, hardback
  • all measurements; but leave file sizes abbreviated, ie kb, mb, gb


  • try to avoid industry-specific language, especially if your audience consists of members of the public
  • phrase things in a way that most average people will understand
  • be aware of Museum-specific terms and acronyms for example ‘TEG’ for Temporary Exhibitions Gallery, ‘VSO’ for Visitor Services Officer


Italics are used for:

  • foreign words and phrases that are not in the Macquarie Dictionary
  • words from Indigenous Australian languages (excluding proper nouns)
  • names of ships, aircraft, boats, cars, spacecraft and other vehicles eg Titanic, but the model, brand and class of vehicle are not italicised (HMAS Sydney)
  • book/journal/newspaper titles, eg the West Australian
  • temporary exhibition titles (but not permanent galleries)
  • film, video, television and radio program titles
  • specific names of musical compositions
  • album titles
  • legislation and legal cases
  • scientific names of plants and animals
  • works of art
  • emphasis (but do not overuse)
  • computer and video games
  • online publications, including comic strips and webcomics
  • orchestral works
  • plays
  • long/epic poems


  • Use single quotation marks, with double quotation marks for quotes within a quotation: eg  ‘I told her, “Never.”’
  • Spelling and punctuation within a quotation must never be altered. If something looks wrong, but the original has been copied correctly, place an italic [sic] within square brackets after the doubtful material. But where a reader might be expected to be able to determine from context that the error was in the original, drawing extra attention to it is not necessary.
  • Quotations longer than approximately 30 words should be separated from the main body of the text by a new paragraph and indented. They are called block quotations and, because they are differentiated from the text in this way, they do not need quotation marks.

Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks for the following:

  • exhibition sections: in the ‘Meteorites’ section of the ‘Diamonds to Dinosaurs Gallery’
  • the titles of chapters in books and journal articles: ‘Australian bushrangers: Criminals, outlaws and heroes’.
  • titles of cartoons
  • episodes of a television series
  • short poems
  • short stories
  • songs and singles
  • statues


  • Spell out ‘%’ as per cent in general text; can use the symbol in lists and tables
  • Only use ampersands (&) if it is part of a company name
  • Spell out copyright, not ©


  • Bullet/dot point lists of incomplete sentences take no initial capital and no terminating punctuation other than a full stop at the end of the list.
  • Bullet/dot point lists of complete sentences take initial capitals and terminating punctuation for each point.
  • Lists which are a contents or menu, or links to further information, should have initial capitals.


  • Numbers up to and including ten are spelt out.
  • Numerals are used for all numbers over ten.
  • Use commas in numbers of five or more digits (22,000 and 1,975,745, but 4637).
  • For larger numbers or whenever a unit of measurement accompanies a number, it is preferable to use a combination of words and numerals (2.5 million, 70 thousand, 5 per cent).


  • Costs are expressed without decimals unless the cost includes cents (eg $12, $5.50).
  • Use a comma instead of a space to separate ten and hundred thousands ($12,462; $12,915,765).
  • For precise millions of dollars, use this form: $8 million.

Dates and times

  • Dates should be written in full and take the form 22 December 2007, not 22 December, 2007 or December 22nd, 2007.
  • 1990s, not 1990’s, ’90’s, or nineties.
  • In spans of dates, use the full date 2000-2002.
  • For time use 10am, 12noon.
  • For spans of time use 9.30am–10pm (time, dash (-), time with no spaces in between).
  • For spans of days use day, date, month, year:  Friday 17 July – Saturday 22 August 2009; 17 July – 22 August 2009.
  • For time, always use decimal point (8.30) not colon (8:30).
  • Spell out days and months in full (Wednesday 3 January, not Wed 3 Jan).
  • All ages are expressed using numbers.
  • Centuries are written as the ‘nineteenth century’ not ‘the19th century’.
  • For exhibition and other event dates, always include the year.

Telephone, fax and email


  • Spell out in full where possible, ie telephone, facsimile. 
  • Where space is an issue, abbreviate as follows Tel: Fax:
  • Always use international codes on the web, ie  +61 8 9212 3700
  • No need for colon, ie
    Telephone +61 8 9212 3700
    Facsimile +61 8 9212 3882
    Email reception@museum.wa.gov.au
    Website www.museum.wa.gov.au
  • Prefer to direct emails to departmental email addresses rather than specific people eg reception@museum.wa.gov.au

Museum terminology

Names and titles

The Western Australian Museum sites should be referred to as follows:

Western Australian Museum – Albany

Western Australian Museum – Geraldton

Western Australian Museum – Kalgoorlie-Boulder

Western Australian Museum – Maritime

Western Australian Museum – Perth

Western Australian Museum – Shipwreck Galleries


First line is site name, second line address


Western Australian Museum – Albany
Residency Road, Albany


Western Australian Museum – Geraldton
Museum Place, Batavia Coast Marina


Western Australian Museum – Kalgoorlie-Boulder
17 Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie


Western Australian Museum – Maritime
Victoria Quay, Fremantle


Western Australian Museum – Perth
Perth Cultural Centre, James Street


Western Australian Museum – Shipwreck Galleries
Cliff Street, Fremantle

Opening hours

Long version


Museum open daily 9.30am – 5.00pm, excluding Wednesdays

Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Anzac Day



Museum open daily 9.30am – 4.30pm, excluding Wednesdays

Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Anzac Day

Terms for people using the Museum

User is the general term used in direct communications (that is, in signage, leaflets, brochures and on the website). It covers people who access the Museum's collections, services and facilities both onsite and online.

Visitors refers to people who visit the Library as tourists to see the building, attend a function or event, or see an exhibition.

A customer is someone who purchases a product from, or visits, a physical or online Museum shop or event.


When the word 'collection' is part of a collection name, it is capitalised (Approximately 500,000 samples are maintained in the Meteorite Collection.)

When the word 'collection' is used generically, it should not be capitalised. (The Museum's collection of Maritime Archaeology is without equal.)

To describe the entire collection of the Museum, use ‘the Museum’s collections’. (The Museum's collections are wide and varied.)

Names of public areas and spaces

Western Australian Museum – Albany

The Residency


Western Australian Museum – Geraldton

Shipwrecks Gallery

Mid-west Gallery


Western Australian Museum – Kalgoorlie-Boulder

Gold Vault

Ethno-Botanical Garden

People of the Goldfields

Water Scarcity

Claude de Bernacles

Miner’s Cottage

The Bank



Western Australian Museum – Maritime

Indian Ocean Gallery

Tin Canoe to Australia II Gallery

Fremantle and Swan River Gallery

Hooked on Fishing Gallery

Cargoes Gallery

Naval Defence Gallery

The submarine HMAS Ovens


Western Australian Museum - Perth

Temporary Exhibition Gallery

Western Australia – Land and People Gallery

Diamonds to Dinosaurs

Katta Djinoong

Discovery Centre

Dampier Marine Gallery

Bird Gallery

Butterfly Gallery

The Old Gaol


Western Australian Museum – Shipwreck Galleries

North Gallery

Dutch Gallery

Batavia Gallery

Entrance Gallery

Woodblock Floor



Earth and Planetary Sciences


Specific Web and Online Styles

About this guide

This guide attempts to address a number of issues encountered with applying consistency to how we present content on the website. It should be used in conjunction with the Museum’s Manuscript Presentation and Style Guide for General Publications which has been developed by the Publications Unit. Where there are contradictions between the two, use this guide’s recommendations if writing for the web.

Although the various sections, models and formats of the Museum’s website have different identities, ‘voices’ and purposes, consistency and accuracy in writing and editing content helps maintain coherence and cohesion overall.

Why do we diverge from the Museum’s Publications style guide?

The web displays text electronically and therefore it is read differently. Text is scanned, therefore brevity and clarity are important. Complex punctuation, sentence structure or capitalisation make web pages more difficult to scan.

The web historically does not have the full range of typesetting options available, and programming makes complicated styling difficult, for example en dashes in auto-generated calendar times.

The other critical difference between web and printed technologies is that the web is an international publication that is viewed through browsers mapped to an extensive range of non-English character sets (eg Russian, Chinese).  While the alphabet, basic punctuation and numbers 1 to 10 tend to be stable, other characters may be mapped differently.

Where do we diverge from the print style guide?

Current areas of divergence include:

  • no space or full stops between the time and am, pm, kb, mb, tb, km (extra full stops in the text make it more difficult to read)
  • no full stops or spaces with initials, acronyms and contractions: eg WA, Mr BA Smith, Pty Ltd. 
  • no full stops in common abbreviations, for example eg, ie, etc
  • use of en and em dashes – hyphens have been accepted historically as an alternative, although the display of en and em dashes is now enabled (however note that some browsers – typically those with non-English character sets – will display and en dash as the character string ‘&endash;’)
  • trying to reduce use of italics and quotation marks for emphasis (italics are very hard to read onscreen; quotation marks interrupt text flow)
  • increased use of bullet points and other lists to improve scanability of the text
  • functionality features such as link text, contents lists and ‘alt’ text
  • awareness that web pages stand alone and therefore need to be relatively complete
  • bold text may be used to emphasise key words within a paragraph, and is an important part of web writing. However, do not overuse bold text and ensure it is only used to emphasise key words to draw the readers’ attention
  • © may be used in place of copyright in website footers.
  • file extensions will be spelt in lower case, even if they are an initialism (eg *.pdf)

Who else diverges?

  • Media releases and employment advertisements: these are currently posted on our website ‘as is’, unless there are any obvious errors.
  • Annual reports: we are obliged to keep them as close as possible to the form in which they were tabled in parliament.
  • Online versions of hard copy publications: these tend to stay true to their original form.
  • Major Flash interactives developed for use in temporary exhibitions or permanent galleries. 
  • HTML versions of interactives will be consistent with the Flash version.
  • PDF documents: generally we can’t edit these, so they are presented on our website as supplied
  • It is assumed that all prices on our website are in Australian dollars – so no need for ‘$A’ before prices (place a general statement on website about this).

Web Writing Guidelines

Write for your audience

Before you write anything, consider:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What do they know about the topic?
  • What are their reasons for reading this page?
  • Will they understand your jargon, acronyms, abbreviations?

Write for web readers

Most people scan web pages. They are likely to skip or ignore large chunks of text or content that are not relevant to their immediate goals.  If they don’t find what they want, they will leave within seconds.

When writing for the web, aim for a concise style of writing that uses clear and simple language, can be understood by your audience, and is organised into clearly labelled sections.

Web page structure

Users access web pages from internet search engines, links on other websites, and links within a website. This means that every page must be self-contained – it's best to assume that the user has not seen the rest of the site.  Giving a summary of the page content or presenting the most important information first can help a reader decide quickly whether to explore the web page further.

As a general rule, web pages should contain 50 per cent less text than equivalent print documents – preferably even less. If you are dealing with more than about 800 words:

  • edit to make it shorter
  • divide it into self-contained and logical chunks that can live on separate pages.

Use plain English

Plain English is a writing strategy that can help improve communication. It involves:

  • familiar, everyday words
  • short, simple sentences
  • active, rather than passive voice
    -Active: Maria returned the book to the library.
    -Passive: The book was returned to the library by Maria.

Use familiar, everyday words

Using everyday words makes content easier to read and understand. Here are some examples:

  • buy (instead of acquire)
  • start (instead of commence)
  • stop (instead of cease)
  • think about (instead of contemplate)

Even if web content is short and to-the-point, it can still be refreshing, interesting and engaging. Avoid clichéd or predictable language; maintain a consistent and inviting tone throughout.

Tone, context and voice

Content should be drafted and edited keeping tone and context in mind. Blogs or podcasts, for example, can have a more conversational, less formal tone, while exhibition pages or information regarding collections need to be authoritative and precise. However, a consistent voice is needed throughout the website, the content templates should be equipped with approved content, and give a good idea of the type of voice that is required for that type of template.

Reinforce the museum’s brand

Anything written on the museum’s website or on its social networking sites becomes part of the museum experience and should convey the museum’s spirit. Be clear, simple, concise, engaging, welcoming, lively, honest, fun (where appropriate), respectful, and approachable.

Know the audience

Complexity of language should be appropriate for the type of page. Major landing pages, or easily accessible content pages have a very wide audience, and must be written with this diverse audience in mind. However, deep-level pages may contain language or terms more specific to the audience.

Think Globally

Remember, not all your readers will be located in Perth or Western Australia or Australia. So make sure that the language you use will translate well (no locally specific terminology).

Edit and edit again

Edit down the word count, make sure that every word used is required.

Make it scannable

  • use short, simple sentence structures; one thought per sentence
  • use headings and subheadings to break text into logical, smaller chunks
  • make sure headings accurately summarise or describe the text below – generic headings such as ‘overview’ should be avoided
  • keep paragraphs short; stick to one topic per paragraph and introduce it in the first sentence, or
  • use bulleted lists instead of paragraphs
  • emphasise key words or phrases by bolding them - but don't overdo it
  • use images, graphs, charts or tables where they might convey complex information more quickly.
  • use links as part of the copy


There are two types of links used in websites: navigational links that reflect the menu structure and provide persistent pathways through a site, and hypertext links that provide additional information (to enrich the content of a page). Links should be used to reinforce the material and create context. Along with headings and subheadings, links help the user to scan the page and the text.

Use links carefully – if the information can be succinctly presented on one page, don’t create unnecessary links.

Hyperlinks should be underlined; for this reason don’t use underline in text that is not a hyperlink.

Style guide for links

Link descriptions sitting on their own line should be brief phrases rather than full sentences, beginning with a capital, no full stop. For example: Find out more about creative fellowships      

Use descriptive link labels that match the title of the page they are linking to, and avoid referencing the mechanics of linking:

Register as a user not Click here to register as a user

Search the Museum database not Read more about searching the database

Links embedded in body text that refer to other pages on the website take the following format:

To find out more about making a request, see Freedom of information.

Links to PDFs, Word documents and mp3 files should contain file type and size (and duration when sound or video) in square brackets:

Western Australian Museum Annual Report 09-10 [2MB PDF]

Annual and financial reports – Book 2 [673KB PDF]

Identifying-Backyard-Bugs.mp3 [3 mins 3.2MB mp3]

The system will apply the correct formatting to hyperlinks – you do not need to add colour or underlining.

For external links put the word ‘website’ in the link, to make it clear that it’s a different website:

View images from the exhibition on the National Portrait Gallery website not

View images from the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery's official exhibition website [external link]

For more information, visit the Australian War Memorial website

You can find out more about these items on the HMAS Sydney website

Proofread your work

Don't publish pages without proofreading them. Typos and spelling errors will send people away from web pages. It helps to have someone else look at your writing with ‘fresh eyes’, so ask someone else to check your work.

Do not publish until content is complete

Don't publish pages with ‘under construction’ or ‘more information coming soon’ messages. These pages can frustrate users looking for information. Either the content exists or it doesn't.