Each week we publish or update a wide range of departmental and policy pages on GOV.UK. These include publications, consultations, detailed guidance, statistics, transparency data, and much more.
One of my roles in the team is to provide a ‘second pair of eyes’ check for all new and updated content before publishing it. I review pages to ensure that they’re accurate, contain no typos, and are clear to read and understand.
Recently I ran a short training session for colleagues on how to improve their page content before they submit it to be published. In the few days since the training session, I’ve already noticed an improvement in the quality of content coming through.
These are my top 20 tips to improve BIS content on the GOV.UK website, based on the GOV.UK style guide and the regular blogposts on the Inside GOV.UK blog. These tips are intended for for website editors, but the first 2 sections may also be helpful to policy officials who draft content for GOV.UK.
- capitalising: most words, including ‘government’ should be lower case, but referring to titles of people and publications are the exception
- bullet point formatting: use a lead-in line before bullet points, start each bullet point in lower case, don’t use punctuation at the end of each point
- URLs: use internal GOV.UK URLs to avoid broken links
- acronyms: spell out the acronym in full the first time you use it, if you use it more than once use the GOV.UK markdown to create hover text
- use formatting creatively eg calls to action, sub-headings
- dates, numbers and millions: check you’re using the correct format in the style guide
Read the content
- check it makes sense: what are we trying to say?
- use plain English, avoiding jargon
- use the active voice: ‘We have published a consultation’ rather than ‘A consultation has been published’
- use short sentences, split long sentences up
- keep the overall length as short as possible: ‘there is no space for waffle anywhere on GOV.UK’
- useful linking: don’t link to the publication that the page is about; do link to relevant pages/resources that you mention
- words to avoid: check the list in the style guide, which includes words like ‘robust’
- migrated pages from the bis.gov.uk site: take special care to review what’s there and fix if necessary
Other boxes to complete for eg publication pages
- titles that translate into URLs: ‘frontload’ titles by putting the key words first, and don’t promise specific URLs before we publish
- short summary: 140 characters only, include key words that people might search for that are not already in the title
- tag to all relevant policies and departments
- include unique reference numbers (URNs) and Freedom of Information (FOI) reference numbers in the correct format
- when scheduling a page to publish at a particular date/time, make sure the publication date is the same
- use the tick-box for a minor change, but for a significant change (eg updated guidance relating to a new policy announcement) remember to include a sentence for email alerts
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