Paragraphs are the most commonly used units of discourse. While they are important, they are also the most commonly misused to emulate other units, like headingslists and tables. Where word processor functionality is possible (e.g., rich text or WYSIWYG editor), you should use lists (ordered/numeric or unordered/bulleted) for simple lists of ideas and tables for tabular data.

Proper Semantic Usage

  • Where word processor functionality is possible:
    • Never bold (the strong HTML tag) or italicize (the em HTML tag) an entire paragraph. If a paragraph was bolded or italicized previously (e.g., in a document before adding to a website), remove the styling, bolding and/or italicizing, and refer to proper semantic usage of headings.
    • Do use bold (the strong HTML tag) or italics (the em HTML tag) on important phrases.
    • Never use spacing to format any alignment issues or special characters (e.g., *, !, -, +, #, ^) to lay out content.
    • Never use special characters (e.g., *, !, -, +, #, ^) to emphasize the importance of something.
    • Use only one (1) space at the end of a sentence before starting a new sentence.
    • Do use heading levels where appropriate (i.e., introducing a subject/topic).
  • A paragraph should be a complete set of thoughts.
    • It should not start with ellipses (…), essentially an incomplete sentence, unless it is a quotation.
    • A heading should not be a lead into the paragraph to complete a thought.
    • When needed, use a colon (:) to introduce a list, not a hyphen (-) or a comma (,).
    • Use a colon to introduce a fact or important information (e.g., "Note:", "Example:"), but do not use them at the end of a heading (Heading 1 - 6) as the format itself introduces information by default.