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Publication Number: FHWA-RD-03-074
Communications Reference Guide
All Agency publications must be prepared in an accessible, electronic format for online use on an appropriate FHWA Web site (such as www.fhwa.dot.gov/ or www.fhwa.dot.gov/research/tfhrc/). Even if a printed version is prepared, an electronic version of the document MUST BE PREPARED and must meet the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The use of multiple colors increases both the cost and the production time for a publication; therefore, additional color should be used only when it is necessary to ensure that the publication achieves its communication goal. Most reports and other publications whose sole goal is to disseminate information can easily convey the information with the use of a single color (almost always, but not necessarily, black ink). A second color of ink can considerably enhance the appearance of a publication and increase the design options available to the graphic designer. The creative use of two colors often negates the need for additional colors. Four-color printing should be used only when the supporting visual elements (e.g., photographs, graphs) require full color to accurately convey the message, or when there are other special considerations. The office director's approval is required to authorize the additional cost.
To avoid duplicate production costs, program offices can have publications designed for Web site display only. Keep in mind that a high-quality Web design can be just as costly as a printed design. Internet publishing is especially useful for documents containing information that needs to be issued quickly, that may change rapidly, or that is of interest but is seldom used. You also may want to consider Internet publishing if you have a small audience, for example, fewer than 500 readers. If your document fits any of these categories, it may be most appropriate to create an HTML-coded, Web-only document for an FHWA Web site.
You should expect an electronic HTML file to have a different look and layout from that of a printed document for two reasons. Duplication of a print design on a Web page will increase file size, which will subsequently increase the amount of seconds it takes for a viewer to see your Web page. See chapter 8, "Minimum Requirements for FHWA Web Pages."
In some instances, a communication product will need extensive design for both print and Web media. Consider taking one or two graphic elements from your print document and having your graphic artist apply those elements into a Web page design. This will ensure consistency between the print and electronic publications, and will help reduce graphic design costs. Make sure you let your designer know from the start that you would like a few graphic elements that you can include on an Internet or CD-ROM version.
Note: Web sites require a template so that the FHWA Web site style is consistent. (See Web site details in chapter 8.)
The Agency recommends that program offices prepare newsletters strictly as electronic documents or Internet publications.
Normally, there are two distinct components necessary to post an electronic publication on a Web site—the written portion (i.e., content) and the HTML programming portion. Both must provide compliance with Section 508, however, each has a different role. There are two reviews that will take place before posting a Web page on the Internet—an editorial review by HRTM-3 or HAIM-20 and a technical review by HAIM-40.
Writing content, gathering information, creating visuals, and collecting photos for a publication or Web site is normally the function of a program specialist or writer. The person who performs this function is usually referred to as a content producer/writer or publication writer. A content producer/writer is normally responsible for fulfilling the information content portion of Section 508. Research and development information and publications that are written and posted on a Web site should be edited by HAIM-20 or HRTM-3. Because the information falls under the jurisdiction of "public information," the Office of Public Affairs also must review it.
Whether you are writing a report or publication, or writing text specifically for a Web page, you should use the following Section 508 guidelines when creating material that will be posted on a Web site:
COTRs and technical programmers who will work on a Web site or who will provide HTML files or a Web site as a final deliverable should see chapter 8 for more specific guidelines on programming an FHWA Web site.
The HAIM-20 and HRTM-3 publication groups now require that anyone who submits a report or publication for print or electronic posting also must submit an electronic "508 captions" file in addition to the final publication file.
The separate 508 captions file should contain a listing of all the descriptions of "non-text elements" within a publication—including but not limited to every photo, chart, graph, pie chart, flowchart, diagram, and equation.
To write a 508 caption (text equivalent), writers may find it easiest to cover a figure with a hand and to describe what the relevance of the non-text element is within a document. The Access Board (the governing body responsible for enforcing accessibility standards) defines text equivalent:(5)
For every figure, graph, photo, formula, equation, chart, etc., shown in a publication or Web document, use the following FHWA format for the 508 caption:
These examples show 508 captions that were used in actual FHWA reports:
Do not submit second generation or previously printed materials as graphics. Do not use tape; correction fluid; photocopies; or fuzzy, dark, or faded artwork.
When submitting electronic files especially for layout, please submit high-resolution files at dpi 300 or greater for printing purposes. See "Designing and Formatting Your FHWA Publication" in the FHWA Publications and Printing Handbook.
All FHWA publications follow the style guidelines in the following order: FHWA Publications and Printing Handbook(1)and the most recent versions of the United States Government Printing Office Style Manual (GPO Style Manual),(2) Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary,(3)and The Chicago Manual of Style(4) by the University of Chicago Press. Therefore, when looking up a particular style, use the above order for prioritizing conflicting styles.
According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (23 CFR 420.121(p)), Federal research reports shall provide units of measurement using the SI (metric) system. (The American Society for Testing and Materials publication, Standard Practice for Use of the SI International System of Units: The Modernized Metric System (ASTM E380-89a or later) should be followed.) Research reports prepared under FHWA planning and research grants must contain metric units, however, they may contain dual units with metric units first and English units in parentheses. Contact the Strategic Communications Team (HRTM-3) if you have questions. Section 205(c) of the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 was amended to give the State transportation officials sufficient flexibility to decide whether to prepare all reports and documents using the English units, metric measurements, or dual measurements. Section 121(d) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century made this exception permanent. See the Update on Metric Use Requirements June 1, 2001 memo at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/contracts/0601metr.cfm.
Use GPO Style Manual abbreviations for units of measurement. Abbreviations used for units of measurement are the same for both singular and plural. However, for Section 508 compliance and to avoid confusion with the word, "in," do not abbreviate "inch," except where it is necessary for space in tables and figures. Do not use periods after these abbreviations, except for "in." in place of inch or inches (again, only where it is necessary for space in tables and figures). Examples of some commonly used units are the following (see GPO Style Manual):
"Percent" and most other symbols such as $, &, #, etc., should be spelled out in the text. Some symbols may be used in figures, tables, and references (see GPO Style Manual).
See appendix J, "List of Preferred Terminology and Abbreviations," for terms that are unique to FHWA.
Some common GPO Style Manual rules are listed below to aid in the writing process.
You can save time and money by:
Topics: research, publications
Keywords: research, Federal Highway Administration research publication guidelines, report guidelines
TRT Terms: research, information organization, documents, monographs, reports, guidelines