Style points

Abbreviations and acronyms

Spell out acronyms at first mention unless they’re well known, eg BE, EU, VAT, etc. This includes departments or schemes.

If you think your acronym is well known, please provide evidence that 80% of the population will understand, and commonly use, the term.

Evidence can be search analytics or testing of a representative sample.

The first time you use an abbreviation or acronym, explain it in full on each page, and then refer to it by initials. For example – Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Don’t use an acronym if you’re not going to use it again later in the text.

Don’t use full stops in abbreviations – BBC, not B.B.C.

Bullet points and steps

You can use bullet points to make text easier to read. Make sure that:

  • you always use a lead-in line
  • the bullets make sense running on from the lead-in line
  • you use lower case at the start of the bullet
  • you don’t use full stops within bullet points – where possible start another bullet point or use commas, dashes or semicolons to expand on an item
  • you don’t put ‘or’, ‘and’ after the bullets
  • if you add links they appear within the text and not as the whole bullet
  • there is no full stop after the last bullet point

Steps

Use numbered steps instead of bullet points to guide a user through a process. You don’t need a lead-in line and you can use links and downloads (with appropriate markdown) in steps. Each step ends in a full stop because each step should be a complete sentence.

Capitalisation

DON’T USE BLOCK CAPITALS FOR LARGE AMOUNTS OF TEXT AS IT’S QUITE HARD TO READ.

Eg, etc, and ie

Don’t use full stops after or between these notations.

If you want to use the long form (‘for example’ instead of ‘eg’, ‘specifically’ instead of ‘ie’ etc) then this is at the content designer’s discretion. User testing has shown that some people are not familiar with abbreviations such as eg, so consider your audience before abbreviating.

Email addresses

Write email addresses in full, in lower case and as active links. Don’t include any other words as part of the link.

Italics

Don’t use italics. Use ‘single quotation marks’ if referring to a document, scheme or initiative.

Single quotes

Use single quotes:

  • in headlines
  • for unusual terms
  • when referring to words or publications, for example: ‘Download the publication ‘Understanding Capital Gains Tax’ (PDF, 360KB)’

Block quotes

Use the block quote markdown for quotes longer than a few sentences.

Telephone numbers

Use ‘Telephone: 011 111 111’ or ‘Mobile:’ not ‘Mob:’.

Use spaces between city and local exchange:

  • 020 7450 4000
  • 0800 890 567
  • +44 (0)20 7450 4000

When a number is memorable, group the numbers into easily remembered units, for example 0800 80 70 60.