Content style guide

Last modified: 29 November 2015

CSRA uses language in certain ways to make sure we are clear and easily understood.

Our content style guide helps our volunteers to write consistently and clearly.

The quickest way to know you’re writing well is to use the Hemingway App.

By keeping to the style guide, we:

  • save time – users don’t have to learn different conventions
  • eliminate minor mistakes
  • help our members – people will pick up inconsistencies while reading; that means they are thinking about how something is being said and not what is being said
  • raise trust levels – if we are consistent, we are giving a coherent view

Active voice

Use the active rather than passive voice. This will help you to write concise, clear content.

Addressing the user

Address the audience as ‘you’ where possible. Our content often makes a direct appeal to our members to get involved or take action, e.g. ‘You can contact us by email’ or ‘Have your say’.

Be concise

To keep content understandable, concise and relevant, it should be:

  • specific
  • informative
  • clear and concise

You should:

  • use contractions (e.g. can’t)
  • not let caveats dictate unwieldy grammar – eg say ‘You can’ rather than ‘You may be able to’
  • use the language people are using – use Google Insights to check for terms people search for
  • not use long sentences with complicated sub-clauses

(Note: words ending in ‘–ion’ and ‘–ment’ tend to make sentences longer and more complicated than they need to be.)

Gender-neutral text

Make sure text is gender neutral wherever possible. Use ‘them’, ‘their’, ‘they’ etc.

Plain English

We use Plain English when we write content. This isn’t just a list of words to avoid. Plain English is the whole ethos of our communications; it’s a way of writing.

Don’t use formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. Use ‘buy’ instead of ‘purchase’, ‘help’ instead of ‘assist’, ‘about’ instead of ‘approximately’ and ‘like’ instead of ‘such as’.

We lose trust from our members if we write ‘buzzwords’ and jargon. Often, these words are too general and vague and can lead to misinterpretation or empty, meaningless text.

Write conversationally – picture your audience and write as if you were talking to them one-to-one but with the authority of someone who can actively help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *