Style Guide

This document is a guide to the styles and patterns used throughout the site. Parts of it are attributable to Dave Shea and Paul Robert Lloyd.

Title

The main page header of this guide is an h1 element. Any header elements may include links.

Sections

The secondary header above is an h2 element, which may be used for any form of important page-level header. Consider using an h2 unless you need a header level of less importance, or as a sub-header to an existing h2 element.

Third-Level Header

The header above is an h3 element, which may be used for any form of page-level header which falls below the h2 header in a document hierarchy.

Fourth-Level Header

The header above is an h4 element, which may be used for any form of page-level header which falls below the h3 header in a document hierarchy.

Fifth-Level Header

The header above is an h5 element, which may be used for any form of page-level header which falls below the h4 header in a document hierarchy.

Sixth-Level Header

The header above is an h6 element, which may be used for any form of page-level header which falls below the h5 header in a document hierarchy.

Structural Elements

Paragraphs

All paragraphs are wrapped in p tags. Additionally, p elements can be wrapped with a blockquote element if the p element is indeed a quote.

Blockquotes

The blockquote element represents a section that is being quoted from another source:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

— Winston Churchill, in a speech to the House of Commons (11th November 1947)

Horizontal Rules

The hr element represents a paragraph-level thematic break, e.g. a scene change in a story, or a transition to another topic within a section of a reference book. The following extract from Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton shows two paragraphs that precede a scene change and the paragraph that follows it:

Dudley was ninety-two, in his second life, and fast approaching time for another rejuvenation. Despite his body having the physical age of a standard fifty-year-old, the prospect of a long degrading campaign within academia was one he regarded with dread. For a supposedly advanced civilization, the Intersolar Commonwearth could be appallingly backward at times, not to mention cruel.

Maybe it won’t be that bad, he told himself. The lie was comforting enough to get him through the rest of the night’s shift.


The Carlton AllLander drove Dudley home just after dawn. Like the astronomer, the vehicle was old and worn, but perfectly capable of doing its job. It had a cheap diesel engine, common enough on a semi-frontier world like Gralmond, although its drive array was a thoroughly modern photoneural processor. With its high suspension and deep-tread tyres it could plough along the dirt track to the observatory in all weather and seasons, including the metre-deep snow of Gralmond’s winters.

List Elements

Ordered Lists

The ol element denotes an ordered list, and various numbering schemes are available through CSS (including 1,2,3… i,ii,iii… a,b,c… and so on). Each item requires a surrounding li tag, to denote individual items within the list.

Here is an example list showing the monarchs of Great Britain and the United Kingdom:

  1. House of Stuart
    1. Anne
  2. House of Hanover
    1. George I
    2. George II
    3. George III
    4. George IV
    5. William IV
    6. Victoria
  3. House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
    1. Edward VII
  4. House of Windsor
    1. George V
    2. Edward VIII
    3. George VI
    4. Elizabeth II

Unordered Lists

The ul element denotes an unordered list (i.e. a list of loose items that don’t require numbering, or a bulleted list). Again, each item requires a surrounding li tag, to denote individual items.

Here is an example list showing the constituent parts of the British Isles:

Sometimes you may want each list item to contain block elements, typically a paragraph or two:

Definition Lists

The dl element is for another type of list called a definition list. Instead of list items, the content of a dl consists of dt (definition term) and dd (definition description) pairs. Though it may be called a “definition list”, dl can apply to other scenarios where a parent/child relationship is applicable. For example, it may be used for marking up dialogues, with each dt naming a speaker, and each dd containing his or her words:

Romeo
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Juliet
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

Table Elements

Tables should be used when displaying tabular data. The thead, tfoot and tbody elements enable you to group rows within each table.

If you use these elements, you must use every element. They should appear in this order: thead, tfoot and tbody, so that browsers can render the foot before receiving all the data. You must use these tags within the table element.

Example with Team GB’s London 2012 medal table:

SportGoldSilverBronzeTotal
Athletics4116
Boxing3115
Canoe Slalom1102
Canoe Sprint1012
Cycling - Road1113
Cycling - Track7119
Diving0011
Equestrian3115
Gymnastics - Artistic0134
Hockey0011
Judo0112
Modern Pentathlon0101
Rowing4239
Sailing1405
Shooting1001
Swimming0123
Tennis1102
Taekwondo1012
Triathlon1012
Total29171965

Media Elements

Image

The img element represents an image:

Example image

Full-Width Image

It can also take up the full width of the page:

Example image

Canvas

The canvas element allows for dynamic, scriptable rendering of 2D shapes and bitmap images:

Your browser does not support canvas.

Full-Width Canvas

It can also take up the full width of the page:

Your browser does not support canvas.

Text Formatting Elements

Links and Anchors

The a element is used to hyperlink text, be that to another page, a named fragment on the current page or any other location on the web. Example:

Go to the home page or return to the top of this page.

Stressed Emphasis

The em element is used to denote text with stressed emphasis, i.e. something you’d pronounce differently. Where italicizing is required for stylistic differentiation, the i element may be preferable. Example:

You simply must try the negitoro maki!

Strong Importance

The strong element is used to denote text with strong importance. Where bolding is used for stylistic differentiation, the b element may be preferable. Example:

Don’t stick nails in the electrical outlet.

Italicised

The i element is used for text in an alternate voice or mood, or otherwise offset from the normal prose. Examples include taxonomic designations, technical terms, idiomatic phrases from another language, the name of a ship or other spans of text whose typographic presentation is typically italicised. Example:

There is a certain je ne sais quoi in the air.

Emboldened

The b element is used for text stylistically offset from normal prose without conveying extra importance, such as key words in a document abstract, product names in a review, or other spans of text whose typographic presentation is typically emboldened. Example:

You enter a small room. Your sword glows brighter. A rat scurries past the corner wall.

Inline Quotes

The q element is used for quoting text inline. Example showing nested quotations:

John said, I saw Lucy at lunch, she told me Mary wants you to get some ice cream on your way home. I think I will get some at Ben and Jerry’s, on Gloucester Road.

Abbreviations

The abbr element is used for any abbreviated text, whether it be acronym, initialism, or otherwise. Generally, it’s less work and useful (enough) to mark up only the first occurrence of any particular abbreviation on a page, and ignore the rest. Any text in the title attribute will appear when the user’s mouse hovers the abbreviation (although, notably, this does not work in Internet Explorer for Windows). Example:

Get the latest news from the BBC in Stoke and Staffs.

Definitions

The dfn element is used to highlight the first use of a term. The title attribute can be used to describe the term. Example:

Bob’s canine mother and equine father sat him down and carefully explained that he was an allopolyploid organism.

Citations

The cite element is used to represent the title of a work (e.g. a book, essay, poem, song, film, TV show, sculpture, painting, musical, exhibition, etc.). This can be a work that is being quoted or referenced in detail (i.e. a citation), or it can just be a work that is mentioned in passing. Example:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, December 1948. Adopted by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III).

Marked or Highlighted Text

The mark element is used to represent a run of text marked or highlighted for reference purposes. When used in a quotation it indicates a highlight not originally present but added to bring the reader’s attention to that part of the text. When used in the main prose of a document, it indicates a part of the document that has been highlighted due to its relevance to the user’s current activity. Example:

I also have some kittens who are visiting me these days. They’re really cute. I think they like my garden! Maybe I should adopt a kitten.

Edits

The del element is used to represent deleted or retracted text which still must remain on the page for some reason. Meanwhile its counterpart, the ins element, is used to represent inserted text. Example:

As a result, Kodos Kang was elected president.

Variables

The var element is used to denote a variable in a mathematical expression or programming context, but can also be used to indicate a placeholder where the contents should be replaced with your own value. Example:

If there are n pipes leading to the ice cream factory then I expect at least n flavours of ice cream to be available for purchase!

Superscript and Subscript Text

The sup element represents a superscript and the sub element represents a sub. These elements must be used only to mark up typographical conventions with specific meanings, not for typographical presentation. As a guide, only use these elements if their absence would change the meaning of the content.

Chemical formulas are written using subscripts (e.g. C6H12O6), but atomic isotopes are written using superscripts (e.g. 13C, 131I, and 238U).

Small Print

The small element is used to represent disclaimers, caveats, legal restrictions, or copyrights (commonly referred to as ‘small print’). It can also be used for attributions or satisfying licensing requirements. Example:

Copyright © 1912-2012 Acme Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Time

The time element is used to represent either a time on a 24 hour clock, or a precise date in the proleptic Gregorian calendar, optionally with a time and a time-zone offset. Example:

Queen Elizabeth II was proclaimed sovereign of each of the Commonwealth realms on and , after the death of her father, King George VI.

Keyboard Entry

The kbd element is used to denote user input (typically via a keyboard, although it may also be used to represent other input methods, such as voice commands). Example:

To take a screenshot on your Mac, press Cmd + Shift + 3.

Sample Output

The samp element is used to represent (sample) output from a program or computing system. Useful for technology-oriented sites, not so useful otherwise. Example:

The computer said Too much cheese in tray two but I didn’t know what that meant.

Pre-Formatted Text

The pre element represents a block of pre-formatted text, in which structure is represented by typographic conventions rather than by elements. Here’s an example showing the printable characters of ASCII:

  ! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . /
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : ; < = > ?
@ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O
P Q R S T U V W X Y Z [ \ ] ^ _
` a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o
p q r s t u v w x y z { | } ~

Code

The code element is used to represent fragments of computer code. Useful for technology-oriented sites, not so useful otherwise. Example:

The requestAnimationFramemethod in the window object tells the browser that you wish to perform an animation and requests that the browser call a specified function to update an animation before the next repaint.

Code Blocks

The code element can also be used in conjunction with the pre element to represent verbatim text like markup or a fragment of computer code:

function microsoftShuffle(arr) {
  return arr.slice().sort(function () {
    return (0.5 - Math.random());
  });
}

You may also specify the language of a code block, so that it can be properly highlighted. Below you can find the classic Hello world program implemented in different languages.

C

#include <stdio.h>
int main(int argc, char *argv[])
{
  printf("Hello, world!\n");
  return 0;
}

C++

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;
int main()
{
  cout << "Hello, world!" << endl;
  return 0;
}

C#

using System;
class Program
{
  public static void Main()
  {
    Console.WriteLine("Hello, world!");
  }
}

Clojure

(println "Hello, world!")

Elixir

IO.puts "Hello World"

Erlang

io:format("~s~n", ["Hello, world!"])

Go

package main
import "fmt"
func main() {
  fmt.Println("Hello, world!")
}

Groovy

println "Hello, world!"

Haskell

main = putStrLn "Hello, world!"

Java

public class HelloWorld {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    System.out.println("Hello, world!");
  }
}

JavaScript

console.log('Hello, world!');

Lisp

(princ "Hello, world!")

Lua

print("Hello, World!")

Objective-C

#import <stdio.h>
int main(void)
{
  printf("Hello, world!\n");
  return 0;
}

Perl

print "Hello, world!";

PHP

<?= 'Hello, world!' ?>

Python

print "Hello, world!"

R

cat('Hello, world!')

Ruby

puts "Hello, world!"

Scala

object HelloWorld extends App {
  println("Hello, world!")
}

Scheme

(display "Hello, world!")

Shell

echo 'Hello, world!'

Smalltalk

Transcript show: 'Hello, world!'.

Math Blocks

The content of a math block has to be valid LaTeX math. It is always wrapped inside a \begin{displaymath} ... \end{displaymath} enviroment except if it begins with a \begin statement:

$$ \begin{equation} \frac{n!}{k!(n-k)!} = \binom{n}{k} \end{equation} $$

You can also display inline math:

In analytical mathematics, Euler’s identity is the equality $e^{i\pi} + 1 = 0$.

Math blocks are rendered using the MathJax display engine.

Form Elements

Forms can be used when you wish to collect data from users. The fieldset element enables you to group related fields within a form, and each one should contain a corresponding legend. The label element ensures field descriptions are associated with their corresponding form widgets.

Patterns

Design and mark-up patterns unique to this site.

Cloud

Used to illustrate the main topics of the site.

Pagination

Used to navigate between pages of search results.

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