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Metadata for Describing Digital Objects: Style Guide

A guide for Appalachian State University faculty, staff and students who are creating metadata for a digital project

"Standards are important because they provide for consistency in the creation of metadata values, which is crucial for functionalities such as searching, browsing and sharing metadata between collections and repositories. Standards also provide structure to the way metadata is expressed in such a way that allows it to be machine-readable."

Getting Started with Digital Collections: Scaling to Fit Your Organization (Monson, 2017, p. 91)

General Style Guidelines and Considerations

Adhering to the style guidelines provided below can help ensure that your project metadata is accurate, consistent, interoperable, and high quality. This page provides general guidelines and other resources for consideration.


To describe copyright information, you may wish to use one of the 12 statements provided on or consult the Head of Scholarly Communications. You can also learn more about copyright, fair use, creative commons licensing, and more here.


  • In general, date values applied in the "Date" or related elements should follow ISO 8601 format of YYYY-MM-DD.
  • In "Description" and "Abstract" elements, avoid using abbreviated forms of dates that can impede user search and navigation. For example, instead of "Nov. 6th 1971" or "6th of November, 1971" enter the date as "November 6, 1971."

File Naming

Implement a pattern-based and consistent file naming convention that facilitates organization of the objects' date, name, version, location or any other information that will allow you to easily identify and distinguish it from other files in the project. Most importantly, choose a system for naming files and stick with it. Being consistent in your file naming practices will help ensure that you can find and identify files later.

If the object's file name is also its identifier, it's important that the file name be unique so that it can be correctly matched with its metadata.

Grammar and Punctuation (for descriptions, abstracts, or other free-form metadata areas)

  • Avoid abbreviations if possible unless they are commonly used in your field and/or are readily known to your audience/users.
  • Avoid acronyms in order to prevent confusion with other entities sharing the same acronym. For example, "ASU" could be interpreted to mean "Appalachian State University," "Alabama State University," "Albany State University," or "Arizona State University" among possible others.
  • Use complete sentences with appropriate punctuation.
  • If appropriate, consider following a style guide such as MLA, APA or others used in your discipline.


Consistently present names using the same spelling and order (e.g., last name, first name, middle initial). To distinguish frequently occurring names (e.g., Jane Smith), you may wish to use other identifying information such as middle initial or middle name, ORCID number, date of birth, or occupation. However, for living persons, please seek their approval before using any personal information about them--even if it is information that can be obtained from other public sources.


Smith, Jane (Biologist)

Smith, Jane, 1807-1898

Smith, Jane A.


  • Titles should be descriptive yet brief.
  • Avoid articles (a, an, the) at the beginning of a title so that titles can be quickly scanned or arranged in alphabetical order.
  • Be consistent in how titles are structured and how capitalization and other style conventions are applied.

Need guidance on your digital project?

Digital Scholarship and Initiatives (DSI) at Appalachian State University Libraries engages and collaborates with library partners, campus, and community to support new scholarship in a rapidly changing digital landscape. DSI service areas include:

For specific metadata requirements for content shared on Appalachian State University Library platforms, such as Omeka, please contact the Metadata Librarian who can provide support and guidance for your project's metadata development.


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Ashlea Green
Subjects: Metadata