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Using plain English for website content

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The Land Registry has recently started helping their staff adopt plain English in anticipation of their move to GOV.UK.

The Land Registry has benefited by working directly with the Plain English campaign to help improve the writing of their content for digital platforms.

They held their first session in how to use Plain English in January, for 15 members of staff whose teams are involved, directly or indirectly, in producing content for their corporate website. These included leaders from operational policy, corporate legal services and customer services.

The aim for the Land Registry is to train the 50 or so people within the organisation who have any involvement in producing information for the public.

Overcoming barriers to the way legal documents are published

A large part of the role of Land Registry is to uphold the Land Registration Act 2002, so a big priority for legal and operational teams is making sure written guidance can’t be misinterpreted.

There is of course a challenge to overcome barriers to the way legal documents are published, combining a commitment to the letter of the law with the need to provide content that is universally accessible. The Land Registry believes the training is helping more people within the organisation to strike that balance.

Many of the people who attended the course have already been trained in writing in Plain English for documents and forms. Approaching 'plain english'  from a purely digital angle helped them to consider the core principles of how people read online and on mobile devices, and to really think of the user before committing words to a page.

The training has also provided a great introduction to the principles of the GOV.UK style guide.

Accessing Plain English guides and training contacts

Thanks to Lynda Bewley, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at the Land Registry for providing this insight. Look out for them on later this year.

Update, April 2013

The hard work is paying dividends. The Land Registry's Our Public Guide 9 has been converted into a new topic page, written to the GDS style guide: What to do when a property owner dies. In its first month it has attracted significantly more visits and pageviews (6,426 and 8,624 respectively) than the old public guide (3,792, 5327)

Persuaded of the benefits of plain English, the policy team are now working to replace the other lengthy guides with this new style of topic page, giving The Land Registry a head start for transition to GOV.UK.

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