Consistent content style, saying goodbye to jargon

August 27, 2014 by No Comments | Category Digital Public Services,

This is a post by Rachel Caldwell, our Content Designer (NHS 24) and is part of our series on Standards & Guidelines

Have you ever gone to a website looking for answers, started reading what’s there, and quickly felt like you need a translator to make sense of all the jargon?

It’s a common complaint. And with movements such as the Plain English Campaign attempting to change the way we create content for the better, it’s our responsibility to help.

We want to turn complex information into content that’s easily understood by our audience. We believe information should be provided in the clearest and most accessible way possible, which is why we have ‘content designers’ rather than ‘content writers’ in our teams.

Introducing guidance for content designers, in the form of a content style guide, is a great way of promoting best practice, and bringing consistency across Scottish online public services when publishing on

Building on strong foundations

We have used the GOV.UK content style guide as the starting point for our own, making use of it within the alpha.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • The Government Digital Service (GDS) team has been publishing a wealth of research, testing and analysis as part of the creation of their content style guide
  • Our early thoughts include some GOV.UK content appearing on, helping to create a more consistent user experience. Maintaining their style allows things to stay consistent
  • The Scottish business portal aggregates a range of content from GOV.UK, so tone and style passes over
  • Bringing simplicity to informational services provided by Government is key to GOV.UK, something we feel strongly about as well

What goes into a content style guide?

The content style guide covers the language and tone of voice to be used. This will help build trust and establish a relationship with users.

We’ve made some small changes to reflect the needs of our team and other public bodies in Scotland. We have also included a little more detail around optimising content for Google (SEO).

Notable areas include:

  • Accessibility principles
  • Writing for the web guidelines
  • Writing in plain English
  • Avoiding duplication

The writing in plain English section is included to remind us that is for everyone. Users don’t stop understanding text because it’s written clearly, but they might if we make it sound more confusing than it needs to.

User needs don’t mean creating more content

Understanding user needs and how to meet each of these is important, as the answer won’t always be to create more content. Sometimes more complex content formats, e.g. calculators, decision trees, or transactional services are best placed to meet these.

We’ll be sharing updates on this, and much more on social, so follow the team via @mygovscot on Twitter for more updates. Want to comment? Let us know below!

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