General Guidance for Word Usage and Spelling for the Web on the University of Maine System Website

The University of Maine System website follows the Associated Press Online Stylebook (External Site). Because the University of Maine System is an institution of higher learning and an institution that prioritizes accessible web content, consistency and accuracy are important. Please review your web content for errors in style, spelling and grammar.

Guidelines about word usage and spelling can be found below.

Word usage

In keeping with general guidelines for writing for the web, the content and information you publish should work well for the people who use it, the first time they read or hear it from a screen reader. This includes consideration of the choices of words that are published on your area’s site.

Whenever you write content for the web, if you are using an uncommon word (or jargon) we would encourage you to consider using a more common word instead, pairing it with a common word or defining the word the first time that it is used on each web page.

For example, the term licensure is less common than comparable words license or certification, so on websites in which users may be trying to learn about licensure we use those additional, more common terms to help the user understand the concept through context.

A general guideline in writing content for the web (but not a hard and fast rule) is to try as often as possible to write at a level in which a user with eight years of English reading experience could comprehend the content. This is often referred to as writing in plain language. Writing at this level helps to ensure that users of most abilities can understand what is written, and that users for whom English is not their first or primary language can understand or use a translator to understand what is written. Focus on short, clear sentences. Stick to words the audience knows.

Want to learn more about how to write in plain language? The Plain Language Action and Information Network (External Site) is a government website available to help.

Why is word usage important?

There are three primary reasons to consider your word usage before publishing content on the web:

  1. Being mindful of word usage supports non-native English readers who may be translating the web page as they read.
  2. Being mindful of word usage supports readers using assistive technology or with cognitive disabilities.
  3. Being mindful of word usage can increase the searchability of your page by making it easier for users to find the content on Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go and other search engines; this is often referred to as SEO, or search engine optimization. You can even test the searchability of words and phrases on Google by using the Google Trends (External Site) search engine.


The University of Maine System spelling style and usage follows the AP Style Guide, which refers to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston and New York, 2016.

A digital version of the dictionary can be found here (External Site).

If Webster’s New World College Dictionary provides different spellings in separate entries (tee shirt and T-shirt, for example), use the spelling that is followed by a full definition (T-shirt).

If Webster’s New World College Dictionary provides definitions under two spellings for the same sense of a word, either use is acceptable.