A colleague has shared the latest style guide from the Government Digital Service, which sets out some common sense standards it expects those who write for it to uphold.
This is aimed at people who are responsible for producing content for gov.uk, which is set to replace the websites of various departments and other bodies over the coming year or so.
I’ve developed, read and tried to live up to a fair few style guides over the years (check this one out as an example). Notwithstanding the need to write for an online audience, which features prominently today, I’ve found they all try to achieve the same thing, which is to say it clearly and quickly and to avoid the inconsistencies that hinder this aim. I welcome this guidance and will be using it next time a debate about whether & should be used in copy (B&Q, yes; Bournemouth, Poole & Dorset, no).
A look at the ‘words to avoid’ (section 1.5) suggests that I have some brushing up to do before I can fully meet the gov.uk standard. I suspect I am not the only one, and that’s often the way with style guides. They set out an aspiration, and it won’t be easy staying away from all those ‘words to avoid’, all the time. But if the principles are pushed by those with influence within the organisations working on the new website, there’s a chance they will stick.
On a related note, someone shared with me an online tool this week which urges writers to cut the crap in a slightly different way. How well does your writing score?