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Terminology and spelling for Web-related concepts

Generally speaking, “Web” as a short form of “World Wide Web” is capitalized, with one exception (webmaster). However, your company style may prefer the lower-case version.

Web site – two words, capital W. The most common alternative I’ve seen is “website” – one word, lower case w. “Web site” appears to be used more for general audiences, with “website” used more by and for people working in in Web-related fields. A Web site is a group of related HTML files and their associated image files.

World Wide Web – three words, all with capital W. Abbreviated to “Web,” not “WWW.”

Web browser – two words, capital W on Web. Commonly shortened to “browser” – not capitalized.

Web page – two words, capital W on Web. A Web page is one HTML file, plus its associated image files, if any.

home page – two words, not capitalized.

Internet – capitalized (although it commonly isn’t; this usage appears to be changing rapidly).

intranet – not capitalized.

e-mail – use a hyphen to show the meaning of “electronic mail” and capitalize the “e” at the beginning of a sentence. Note: many people argue that e-mail has already passed beyond the need for a hyphenated stage into being a well-known, non-hyphenated word, email.

e-commerce – use a hyphen to show the meaning of “electronic commerce” and capitalize the “e” at the beginning of a sentence.

URL – all capitals. It’s an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator.

HTML – when used in text to refer to the markup language, capitalize all the letters. It’s an acronym for Hyper Text Markup Language.

.htm, .html – when used in text to refer to the filename extension, use lower case. Because some Web servers are case-sensitive, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of naming all files in lower case.

JPEG – when used to refer to the graphic file type, capitalize all the letters. It’s an acronym for Joint Photographic Experts Group (aren’t you glad you asked?) and is pronounced “jay-peg.”

.jpg – see comment on .htm above.

GIF – when used in text to refer to the graphic file type, capitalize all the letters. It’s an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format and is pronounced either “jif” as in “jiffy” or “gif” as in “gift” — both seem to be equally common.

.gif – see comment on .htm above.

You can extend that guideline to any of the other file types and filename extensions that are common these days, for example PDF (Portable Document Format): user upper case in text, but name the files .pdf.

Some terms, such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol), can be in either upper or lower case when used in text; upper case is more common. For example, “You can use any FTP program to upload your files to the server.”

HTML markup

In the past, capitalization was irrelevant when HTML tags were used in HTML documents. But new markup, including XML and XHTML, is different: XML is case sensitive and XHMTL requires lower case tags. The future of HTML is XHTML, so we should be setting up files to make the transition as easy as possible.

In text (such as an article explaining how to use HTML tags), editors should make sure the use of capital letters follows the requirements for XML. Therefore:

Put all tags and attributes in lower case; variables (the text between the quotation marks) can be in upper, lower, or mixed case. For example:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”technical editing, HTML, JPEG, Web site”>
<title>… </title>
<h1>… </h1>
<a href=””>… </A>
<img alt=”This is the alternative text.” src=”image.jpg” height=”20″ width=”80″>

Web addresses (URLs)

Web addresses are usually provided in this form:

Where “http” should be in lower case, the characters between the :// and the / can be either upper, lower or mixed case, and the “jhweber.htm” can get tricky.

Some Web servers (the software that runs a Web site), including UNIX servers, are case-sensitive; that is, the software interprets upper-case characters in a filename as different from lower-case characters. Thus a UNIX server won’t recognise “JHWeber.htm” and “jhweber.htm” as the same filename. Other servers, including Windows NT servers, don’t distinguish between upper and lower case characters, so they do recognize both “JHWeber.htm” and “jhweber.htm” as the same filename. Note that if your files are stored on a UNIX server, you must be careful of the capitalization used in the internal links between your files, as well as in the capitalization of any URLs you publish to the outside world.

For those reasons, it’s a good idea to make all your filenames (plus extensions) in lower case. And while you’re at it — it’s also a good idea to not have spaces in your file names. Some programs don’t get along well with filenames that contain spaces, so save yourself and others a lot of trouble by not using them. Replace “my resume.htm” with “myresume.htm” and all will be well.

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Last updated 27 July 2003