Style guidelines for Excel
Jess Ahmet avatar
Written by Jess Ahmet
Updated over a week ago

Excel courses require their own set of style guidelines than the ones that have been established for traditional coding courses. The UI interface, field names, and Excel terminology must be described clearly and consistently. Make sure to adhere to the following when creating content for Excel:

Use italics for interactions

The Excel terminology should be capitalized and italicized. Anything that can be clicked or interacted with inside Excel must be in italics. This includes anything that is inside a drop-down menu or pop-up window.

Good: Navigate to Custom Sort under the Home > Sort & Filter option.

Bad: Navigate to custom sort under the home > sort & filter option.

Use American English

We are an American company, and the USA contains our largest group of students, so all courses/projects must be written in American English. It is up to you to ensure this.

Good: This standardizes the modeling of colors.

Bad: This standardises the modelling of colours.

Use full sentences

Students are going to read the contents of your course/project; you need to make sure to use full, properly punctuated, clear sentences. Remember that you will not be there to explain things to students, so listing things you think students will understand is not enough.

When using any numbers from ten and under, you should use text to write out the number. However, if you are using any number ten and under in a sentence that is related to inputting a value within the Excell, then you should use numerical digits, along with code formatting (see the following section).

Good: We have five active and five inactive relationships.

Bad: We have 5 active and 5 inactive relationships.

Use code formatting

Inline code formatting should be used for the following elements:

  • File names and locations

  • Sheet names

  • Column & row references

  • Structured cell references

  • Cell references

  • Table names

  • Formulas (See more information in the Formulas section)

  • Input numbers in a hint or instruction, e.g., "Change the decimal places entry to 3".

When asking learners to enter the name of a file, sheet, table, or column for the first time, do not use code formatting. Instead, use double quotes. In this instance, you are asking the learner to type something for the first time, so double quotes are required. After this, any time a reference is made, you can use code formatting.

File names and locations

Good: Open 1_1_loading_workbooks.xlsx from the Workbooks folder.

Bad: Open 1_1_loading_workbooks.xlsx from the Workbooks folder.

Creating new sheet

Good: For this exercise, create a new sheet in the workbook called "Sales".

Bad: For this exercise, create a new sheet in the workbook called Sales.

Referring to a sheet

Good: For this exercise, navigate to the Sales in the workbook.

Bad: For this exercise, navigate to the “Sales” in the workbook.

Column & row references

Good: Navigate to column A in your Sales worksheet.

Bad: Navigate to column A in your Sales worksheet.

Structured cell references

Good: Create a new column that multiplies Table1[ItemPrice] by Table1[Quantity].

Bad: Create a new column that multiplies Table1[ItemPrice] by Table1[Quantity].

Cell references

Good: Go to cell A7 in your Sales worksheet.

Bad: Go to cell A7 in your Sales worksheet.

Table Names

Good: Navigate to Table1 in your Sales worksheet.

Bad: Navigate to Table1 in your Sales worksheet.

Input Numbers

Good: Change the size of the bar chart title to 25.

Bad: Change the size of the bar chart title to 25.

Use parentheses after function names

This formatting helps distinguish functions from variable names. Functions will be used when referring to formulas in Excel.

Good: Use the SUM() function.

Bad: Use the SUM function.

Use quotes for text input

When asking learners to input text and type something, then the input requested should be in quotes. Specifically for Excel, chart titles or axes should also be referred to with quotes.

Good: Double-click on the y-axis and change the title to “New Bar Chart” in the dialogue box.

Bad: Double-click on the y-axis and change the title to New Bar Chart in the dialogue box.

Exercise file names

Names of workbooks should follow this structure: n_m_keyword, where:

  • n is the chapter number

  • m is the exercise number (resets each chapter, always starting with n_1)

  • keyword is a lowercase keyword that makes it easier to identify the exercise. If there are multiple keywords, use snake_case, e.g., 1_1_loading_workbooks.xlsx.


If this exercise builds on a workbook/report created in a previous exercise, the following sentence needs to be included at the bottom of the Context section using italics formatting:

If you lost progress, load the workbook 1_1_loading_workbooks.xlsx from the Workbooks folder.

Replace 1_1_loading_workbooks.xlsx with the exercise filename that contains the exercise's starting state.


All instructions should have ending punctuation, even if the last word is formatted as inline code. You don't need to use bullet points if there’s only one instruction in a single step. If there are multiple instructions in a step, you must use bullet points.


Hints should always have end punctuation unless the hint is a code snippet. If there’s only one hint in a single step, you don’t need to use bullet points. You must use bullet points if there are multiple hints in a step.

Because students don't have access to a solution, they should describe the steps from beginning to end to complete the exercise.


With regards to scripts, additional formatting should be kept to a minimum. It is not necessary to put words/sentences in quotes or other such formats. The best practice is to write out sentences in full and avoid using abbreviations and numbering. Some examples of what to avoid include:

  • E.g.

  • I.e.

  • A) B) C)

  • 1) 2) 3)

When writing anything out that includes a period/full stop, it is necessary to write “dot” instead of just “.” so that the sentence is not broken up into smaller sentences by the caption creator. This includes the following items:

  • Website addresses

  • Functions, particularly when implementing any Python or R into BI course material

Alternative text

Alternative text should always be in full sentences and punctuated properly. The aim is to get as much information as possible into a sentence to describe an image for the learner clearly.


The general rule is to put allExcel syntax in code formatting (between backticks) in all exercise types.

Below is an example of how Excel formulas are used in a hint in the Introduction to Excel course.

  • All functions should be followed by a ().

  • TRUE or FALSE should be put in code formatting if it is referring to code output.

  • Add ____ (4 underscores) as code scaffolding for blanks in intermediate hints and exercise files for learners to fill out. Adjust the amount of code scaffolding (if any) in the exercise file based on the exercise's difficulty. For example:

  • Hints of multistep exercises should help the learner but not give away the full answer. You can use the hint of the final step to give the exact syntax. For example:

Hint in step 2:

Hint in the final step with the exercise question:

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