Formatting

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When words alone aren’t enough

We keep additional formatting of copy at a minimum. The words themselves should be precise and presented in a clear enough way that they shouldn’t require any additional emphasis or special treatment. In some cases, though, we do format copy for clarity. Follow these guidelines.


Acronyms & abbreviations

When an acronym appears for the first time, spell it out and include the acronym in parentheses—unless it’s commonly known, like IRS, ZIP code, EIN, PIN. For plurals, use a lowercase “s” without an apostrophe. Use standard abbreviations; don’t just truncate words.

Don't use acronyms for product names. Spell out QuickBooks Online, never QBO. The one exception is the QBO Blog.

Include the period of an abbreviation when using a colon.

Don’t use Latin abbreviations (e.g., i.e.). For abbreviations in column headers, use a period at the end of the abbreviation.

In column headers, you can also abbreviate "number" as "no." Don't use the hash symbol (#) to mean number.

Special rules apply to the abbreviation for the United States. In headlines, it’s US (this applies to slide titles, too). In text body, it’s U.S.

Examples

Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a 9-digit number issued by the IRS. You can edit or change your EIN from the Company identification tab if you need to.

SLAs

1111 Bell Ave., Apt. C

Enter invoice no.:

Ref. no.

Attn.


Bold

Use boldface content sparingly. It can call attention to something important, but if overused, it can have the opposite effect, making a screen look chaotic, cluttered, and intimidating.

Here are some things you might want to present in bold:

  • User actions: buttons or steps mentioned in instruction content
  • Navigation choices: navigation labels referred to in instructions
  • Names of user interface elements: In our products we try not to talk about the UI, but it might be necessary in help and support content.
  • Tax form numbers, transaction numbers, or other business data, such as invoice numbers
  • Terms that need emphasis (this is very rare)

Don’t use bold copy as a substitute for appropriately coded second- and third-level headings (like h2 and h3).

Use only one type treatment at a time (color, bold, indentation). For example, if the copy is already indented or a distinct color, don’t make it bold too.

W-2
Form 8863
Select Continue to see your results.
Note: Contact your employer if you haven’t received a W-2
yet.
We’ll cover that later in Deductions and Credits.
Invoice 4107 is on its way to Travis Waldron.

W-2
Form 8863
Select Continue to see your results.
You should file your return before the April deadline.


Capitalization

Sentence case rules

Use sentence case, even in headings and titles.

Sentence case is casual and friendly. It helps support the conversational Intuit style and brand personality. Sentence case also makes translation a bit easier.

Don't capitalize feature names

Don’t capitalize the names of features such as invoices, payroll, and payments. This kind of sub-branding is distracting, and sometimes intimidating, to users. Sub-branding also dilutes the strength of the products that we want to capitalize.

Inside Intuit we might refer to a feature as The Amazing Bill Paying Tool. But when we present this to customers, it’s simply bill paying. This helps keep the experience clear and straightforward for customers. They don’t need to learn a new term; they just need to pay their bills. And sub-branding a feature by putting it in capital letters reduces the impact of Intuit’s overall branding efforts.

Exceptions for marketing

There are capitalization exceptions on some marketing pages. To attract new customers and encourage action, marketers might capitalize the word “free” (Free or FREE). Research proves that the capitals are effective for conversion, but the promotional tone of the capital letters is out of place in the in-product conversation we’re having with our users.

Use ALL CAPS only when you should

Avoid using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. It’s like screaming, and it may present additional difficulty for users with dyslexia and other reading challenges.

We occasionally display all capital letters in headings on marketing pages, badges (such as NEW or PLUS), navigation labels, and table headers. All of these uses are exceptions. We really don’t need to scream at our users that often.

Some terms we capitalize

  • Proper nouns: (James Bond, English)
  • Proper names: (West Virginia, Internal Revenue Service, Franchise Tax Board, QuickBooks Online Self-Employed)
  • Popular names: (“the Series” for the World Series)
  • Derivatives: (Californian, Shakespearean)
  • Titles before names: (President Lincoln received a cordial reception when he addressed Congress. The president received a cordial reception when he addressed Congress.)

Some tax terms appear in title case

To clarify some tax terms, we present them in title case.

Deduction or credit names
Example: Let’s see if you qualify for the Child Tax Credit.

Sections
Example: Later in Personal Info, we’ll gather more details to make sure we cover your situation.

In all other cases, just use lowercase.

Federal and state
Example: How to file your state taxes online

Filing status
Example: The head of household status can lead to a lower taxable income.


The case for sentence case

Why do we prefer sentence case for Intuit content?

  • Brand voice:
    Setting buttons and other user interface elements in formal-looking title case or (worse) all capitals works against the friendly, conversational tone we want to set with our customers. Also, if we mention a branded feature in a button, it stands out more if it’s capitalized, and such a presentation is better for that brand. Example: Start my ExpenseFinder trial
  • Readability:
    Sentence case tends to be easier to read and comprehend, especially when call-to-action labels are more than three words. Also, breadcrumb labels in sentence case are easier to scan.
  • Font size:
    Capital letters might occupy more space, limiting our ability to simplify the interface for better usability.
  • Localization:
    Capitalization rules vary by culture and country. Sentence case is generally easier to translate for non-U.S. markets and products.
  • Consistency:
    When training a diverse, distributed team to write copy, it’s a lot easier to teach sentence case. And we’ll be much more likely to get correct, consistent copy. Digital products that prefer title case sometimes end up publishing copy like “Start your Free Trial.” If the team is trained to write in sentence case, they’re much more likely to create correct copy like “Start your free trial.”

Italics

Don't set copy in italics. Italics are usually difficult to read in digital experiences.

If you need to guide the user to a user interface element, don't use italics. Use bold instead.

Only use one treatment (color, bold, indentation) to emphasize text. If the ghost text in a form field is a distinct color, italics are unnecessary.

Form 8863
Select Continue to see your results.
To get started, select Apps in the menu.

Form 8863
Select Continue to see your results.
To get started, select Apps in the menu.


Links

Links guide users to other destinations or files. We use them to link to help content or to download forms or other resources. In some designs, we use links for a call to action.

How to write links

The best structure for a link that’s a call to action is a verb and a direct object. This helps users understand where they’re likely to go and encourages them to go there.

Use descriptive text for the link, not specific actions (Click here) or location (here). And try to set contextual expectations about what’s behind the link.

Try not to use “Learn more,” which isn’t descriptive enough except for space-constrained designs. Better examples: Find out more about your deductions, See more about invoices.

Write the link to be large enough for users to select. At least 8 characters is a good size. But the link shouldn’t be more than 6 to 8 words (about 55 characters).

If you need to provide legal details about something, link to it in the footer with language like “For more details, check out the terms of use.”

Don't go crazy with links

  • Don’t use links in headlines.
  • Don’t add links to every possible resource. Present the most helpful ones.
  • Don’t have multiple links to the same place on the same page.
  • Don’t underline links. Set them in the appropriate link color. An underline appears when the user hovers on the link.


Lists

Bulleted lists

A bulleted list shows users content that is focused, organized, and easy to scan.

  • Keep bullet lists and bulleted items short and succinct, with no more than 5 items on the list. (Help articles can list as many as 10 items, but that’s unusual.)
  • Avoid having more than one bulleted list on a screen.
  • Begin bulleted items with an initial capital letter.
  • End a bulleted item with a period if it’s a sentence. If it’s a question, end with a question mark.
  • Use parallel construction for your bullet list items. If one item starts with a verb, every item should start with a verb. If one item ends in punctuation, every item should end in punctuation.

Numbered lists

A numbered list shows the order in which actions should occur, when events will take place, or order of importance:

  1. Introduce the list with a lead-in sentence, fragment, heading, or question. Use a question mark if it’s a question.
  2. Begin each numbered item with an initial capital letter (unless you’re using the list items to complete the sentence).
  3. Don’t use “and”, “or”, or “and/or” at the beginning of any list item.
  4. Use parallel construction for your list items. If one item starts with a verb, every item should start with a verb.
  5. Make sure each step includes only one action or two closely related actions (like “go to the menu and select Apps”). That helps us keep the steps simple.
  6. Write all items in the same voice (usually active) and tense (usually present). Fragments are fine, but if one item is a complete sentence, try to write them all that way. Or turn that odd sentence into a fragment.
  7. Use a period at the end of each list item if it’s a complete sentence, and keep punctuation consistent. Don’t use commas or semicolons at the end of list items.

Mathematical symbols and equations

Mathematical symbols (+, -, x, /, ÷, =) and equations are permissible but should not substitute words. For accessibility, explain the equation first. Not all screen readers will read these symbols. Explaining the equation helps all users understand it. 

Examples

Calculate your business’s solvency ratio by first adding your net income after taxes and your non-cash expenses. Then divide that number by your liabilities to get your solvency ratio, expressed as a percentage.

(Net income after tax + non-cash expenses) ÷ all liabilities = solvency ratio

Use the plus symbol (+) to refer to a partnership like “QuickBooks + Square”

Spell out symbols as verbs when explaining an equation: add, subtract, multiply, divide

Use the plus symbol (+) to mean “and”

Use “x” to mean “times” (10x, 2.5x). Spell out “times” or say “multiplied by” instead.

Use the plus symbol (+) to give instruction, such as “hold + drag”


Names and titles

There are many ways to abbreviate names and courtesy titles. When writing in our voice, follow the spirit of these examples.

Capitalize titles when they appear before a name. Set them in lowercase otherwise.

Sr. VP
Jr. Designer
BA in English
MBA
CPA
Associate Director John Smith

Senior Vice President
Junior Designer
Bachelor's degree in English
M.B.A.
Certified Public Accountant
associate director John Smith


Underlines

Underlined URLs are a thing of the past. Instead, set the link in the appropriate color so that it stands out. The underline appears when the user hovers on the link.

For more information, review our guidelines for links.


URLs

In digital experiences, a descriptive link is usually a better way to direct users to another page. For more information, see the formatting guidelines for links.

When we do spell out a universal resource locator, use lowercase, even if it refers to a product name.

Leave out the scheme/protocol (http, https) and the www part.