KB User's Guide - Documents Tab - Document Style Guidelines

This style guide lists a set of standards for design and writing of KB documents. This document defines the standards and conventions used in KB User's Guide Documents. These guidelines are provided to ensure that all documents use the same style, format, and HTML standards. Consistency in documentation makes it easier for users to utilize the KnowledgeBase.

When creating, reviewing, or editing a document please follow these guidelines.


The title of your document should be clear and concise. It should fit the following format:

 Product Name (Restrictions) - Descriptive Title

  • Product Name - The name of the product, application or service.

  • (Restrictions) - Any restrictions that apply to the document should go between the parentheses. Examples of restrictions are problems that affect only Macs (Mac), Windows (Win), UW-Madison (UW-Madison only).

  • Descriptive Title - A short description of the document's main theme. Capitalize the first, last and any important words in a title, which is known as Title Case. Generally, we do not capitalize: articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions, (and, nor, or, for, but, etc.) nor do we capitalize prepositions that are fewer than five letters (on, at, to, from, by, etc.).


Title words are automatically included as keywords so there is no need for the author to include them.

Keywords should include:

  • product or service names
  • key concepts
  • error codes
  • synonyms
  • acronyms

You may also include:

  • common misspellings (example: a user types in WISDOM but intends to search for a document on software called WISDM)
  • former service names
  • former product names
  • former department names/ department acronyms
  • other phrases describing similar action (example: transfer document ownership, reassign ownership, hand off, hand-off, hand over, turn over, give over, convey, impart, dispatch, pass on, advance, bestow, return)


Briefly describe the content in this field in one or two sentences so the reader knows what to expect. Depending on your content, you may write one or two of the points below:

  • Start with an introductory sentence
  • Convey the specific ideas
  • Include the facts or key points covered
  • Identify the main idea(s)
  • Include source(s)
  • Include a disclaimer
  • Include contact information
The KB Summary field has no character limit. If you would like to apply formatting to the summary (example: bold, italics, code...), you may copy and paste HTML code into the Summary field.


The body contains in-depth information about a product, service or guides users through a series of detailed instructions or troubleshooting steps. The body section should use the following format guidelines:

  • Accurate Content- Make sure all text and screenshots are accurate. During review make sure text and screenshots are still accurate. This includes making sure that all links work.

  • Validate HTML Formatting - Correct and compliant HTML formatting is required in the Body field. Quick code links are provided to assist with correct and consistent coding. For more information on HTML formatting and standards, see KB User's Guide - Documents Tab - Basic XHTML Commands. An HTML validation tool is provided to check coding for errors. For more information on the Validation tool, see KB User's Guide - Documents Tab - Validation Tools (Classic Editor). For more information on the document editor buttons see the Guide to Document Editor Buttons.

  • Headings - Headings should be used to introduce new sections of documents. The Heading 2 (h2) heading is used to introduce major topics or sections, and the Heading 3 (h3) and Heading 4 (h4) headings are used to introduce subsections. Because the document title is displayed as a Heading 1 (h1), you should use only Heading 2 (h2), Heading 3 (h3), and Heading 4 (h4) heading sizes in your documents. You may leverage these headings to create an in-page table of contents.

  • Grammar and Spelling - Accurate spelling and grammar are very important. Make sure to proofread documents after they are completed. Most major browsers have a built-in spell checker. Use that to verify correct spelling.

  • KnowledgeBase - verify spelling of the word "KnowledgeBase". It should be spelled as one word; capital K, capital B.
  • Spacing After Periods - Do NOT double-space after periods. It is no longer the standard and it doesn't show up any differently than single spacing after periods due to HTML standards.

  • Images and Attachments - Images and other attachments (such as Word documents, PDF files, and video files) can be added to enhance or illustrate your document. Images should not be used in place of clear and concise instructions and explanations; they should, rather, emphasize your instructions. For guidelines on images, see KB User's Guide - Documents Tab - Image Guidelines.

  • Using Bold, Italics, Underline, and Quotation Marks

    The following table has guidelines for using Bold, Italics, Underline, and "Quotations Marks":

    ConventionUsage guidelinesExamples
    BoldTo instruct a reader to actively do something on screen.
    To instruct a reader to press a key on the keyboard.
    Click on Start.
    Press F1 on the computer keyboard.
    ItalicsTo denote text that a user will need to type.
    To cite special credits.
    Type msconfig.
    Adapted from Apple KB.
    UnderlineUsing underlines is not recommended in order to avoid confusion with hyperlinks. 
    "Quotation Marks"To indicate error messages, screen prompts, or field names."Error: type 1".
    Fill in the "Host" field.
  • Conventions - When documenting a series of buttons or items a user must click on, use the > (it must be entered as > due to HTML standards) to separate the items and bold the entire thing. For example, to tell a user to click on tools and then go to options, format it as such: Click on Tools > Options.

  • Use the word "Press" instead of the word "Hit" - Rather than instructing a user to "Hit Enter." say "Press Enter" and phrase the main method description in terms of what it does.

    Frequently used verbs in software documentation:

    • Click
    • Double-click
    • Select
    • Press
    • Get
    • List
    • Create
    • Search

      Examples of menu actions and commands in a sentence:

    • On the File menu, click Open.
    • Type a name in the User Name field.
    • In the Open dialog box, click Save.
    • On the computer keyboard, press Enter.
  • Check Links - When authoring docs be sure that all links work. When reviewing docs, be sure all links work. At every six month review, be sure to double check that the links still work. The KB has a broken link checking feature, for more information, see KB User's Guide - Documents Tab - Identifying Broken Hyperlinks on your KB documents .

  • Lists - Ordered and Unordered - either all items should end in a period or none. It may depend on whether or not the information is more like a sentence or a list of phrases. Be sure to make it consistent for any given list. Use Ordered Lists for step by step directions and Unordered Lists for a list of related items.

  • Mobile View - Test documents on mobile device to check formatting. Click here for more info on the KB4U Mobile App.

  • Browsers - Occasionally spot check documents on something other than your preferred browser.

  • Copying & pasting content from Microsoft Word or Google Docs - Copying content from either place often brings extraneous code that, in time, nests and becomes unmanageable. instead, run your content through an HTML cleaner like HTML Tidy . Other tips can be found here.


This field is located under the expandable Show Additional Fields section found at the bottom of the document edit screen.

Instead of placing JavaScript or CSS in the body of the document, where, in time, it may be difficult to edit among your regular content, you can place it in its own distinct field.

Now, when the document is rendered, the content in the body is rendered first, followed by the any JavaScript or CSS content. This way the functionality of the JavaScript/or CSS is preserved without causing problems when editing.

See Also:

Keywords:kb knowledgebase knowledge base users guide document guidelines guideline style guide style manual standard   Doc ID:5304
Owner:Leah S.Group:KB User's Guide
Created:2007-01-18 19:00 CDTUpdated:2021-06-01 13:19 CDT
Sites:KB Demo, KB Demo - Child Demo KB, KB User's Guide, Social Science Computing Cooperative , University of Illinois System, University of Illinois Technology Services
Feedback:  4   1