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A to Z style guide

We follow the A to Z style guide from gov.uk. The style points in this section apply to all content published on derbyshire.gov.uk.

It includes:

  • guidance on specific points of style
  • derbyshire.gov.uk style for specific words and phrases, in terms of spelling, hyphenation and capitalisation.

If you have a query about a point of style that isn’t covered here, check the GOV.UK style guide first for guidance and, if not covered there, the Guardian and Observer Style Guide.

A

Active voice

Use the active rather than passive voice, for example: ‘renew your library books’ rather than ‘your library books can be renewed’. This helps to write concise, clear content.

(See also ‘tone of voice’).

Attachments

If attachments are date specific, they should always be displayed in reverse order with the most recent date at the top of the list, for example:

  • 2018 Quarter 4 statistic
  • 2018 Quarter 3 statistic
  • 2018 Quarter 2 statistic
  • 2018 Quarter 1 statistic
  • 2017 Quarter 4 statistic

(See also 'file sizes')

Authority

Never refer to Derbyshire County Council as ‘the authority’. We refer to ourselves in the first person ('we' or 'our') wherever possible.

(See also ‘tone of voice’).

B

Borough council

Where using the full name of the council use capital letters, for example 'High Peak Borough Council', at all other times both words should be lower case.

We have 4 borough councils in Derbyshire:

  • Amber Valley Borough Council
  • Chesterfield Borough Council
  • Erewash Borough Council
  • High Peak Borough Council

(See also 'district council')

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Upper case for the full title; 'Buxton museum' for short.

C

Call Derbyshire

Upper case.

01629 533190

Calls to Action (CTAs)

See 'links'.

Campaign pages

There are 3 circumstances where a campaign page could be used:

  • with traded services or where we are in competition with the private sector, for example: adult education
  • where information is pulled from across the site, such as winter information
  • where it ties in with a specific campaign, and has a number of child pages: Trusted Trader, for example

The decision as to whether content is appropriate for a campaign page lies with the Digital and Web Development team.

Images used on campaign pages should not be logos, and they should include as little wording as possible. See 'images' for more information.

Chapel-en-le-Frith

Hyphenated and capitalised.

Contact information

Unless talking about a councillor or senior officer, avoid using individual names or other personal contact details. Refer instead to the general contact details for the council or service. This makes sure any correspondence is answered as quickly as possible.

When writing out a postal address each part of the address should be on a new line, no need for commas to be used on each line or a full stop at the end. Other information about the location should be included alongside, for example opening hours or parking information.

(See also ‘telephone numbers’).

Councillor

Website and email: Councillor Joe Bloggs

Social media: Cllr Joe Bloggs

County council

Both words should be lower case unless using the full name of the council, for example 'Derbyshire County Council'. On digital channels, we refer to ourselves in the first person ('us', 'we') wherever possible. Never use ‘the County Council’ on digital channels.

(See also ‘Derbyshire County Council' and 'tone of voice’)

Committee

Use capitals for the name of the committee the first time it is mentioned on a page, for example Policy Committee, but refer to ‘the committee’ thereafter.

Use lower case when talking about committees generally.

D

DCC

Never use the abbreviation DCC when referring to Derbyshire County Council.

(See ‘Derbyshire County Council’).

Departments and teams

If at all possible, provide your information without referring to your department or team. A member of the public has come to the website to find information on a service not on the internal structure of the council.

Refer to yourself as ‘we’ in the body of your text for example ‘we are able to provide the following’. If you need to mention your department please try and remember to refer to yourself as a service area and do not use capital letters. ‘Services’ sounds helpful to a visitor while departments are bureaucratic structures which may be off-putting or meaningless to those not employed by us. 

(See also ‘we…’).

Derby

Refer to as Derby, the place, as ‘Derby’ and not ‘Derby city’.

When referring to Derby City Council, it’s upper case when mentioned in full; lower case for ‘the city council’.

Derbyshire County Council

There should rarely be a need to write Derbyshire County Council in full in digital communications or content. Let the fixed elements of the design provide the organisational context and branding and refer to the council in the first person (‘us’, ‘we’).

(See also ‘we…’ and ‘local authority’).

Derbyshire Directory

Upper case.

Derbyshire Eco Centre

Capitalise when referring to the whole name. No hyphen. Lower case for ‘the eco centre’.

Don’t refer to it as ‘The Derbyshire Eco Centre’.

Derbyshire libraries

Lower case.

Derbyshire Record Office

Upper case.

District council

Both words should be lower case unless using the full name of the council, for example Derbyshire Dales District Council. Never use 'the District Council' on digital channels.

We have 4 district councils in Derbyshire:

  • Bolsover District Council
  • Derbyshire Dales District Council
  • North East Derbyshire District Council
  • South Derbyshire District Council

(See also ‘borough council’).

E

Eco centre

See Derbyshire Eco Centre.

email

Lower case, no hyphen, except where it is mentioned in text at the beginning of a sentence, such as the one that follows.

Email addresses should be written in full as an active link with no other words in the link.

F

Facebook

Upper case. See the separate brand guidelines on Facebook about use of the logo.

Family information directory

Lower case.

FAQs

Don’t use FAQs on digital channels. Content created with user needs in mind won’t need FAQs. There is more on GOV.UK about why we don’t use FAQs under the heading ‘structuring your content’.

Feature stories

Feature stories should link to content pages on the website and not to news items. Similarly news items on the website should not act as content pages.

Feature story images should not include logos.

File sizes

Files supplied for inclusion on the website should be no larger than 5MB.

G

Government

Always use a lower case G: ‘the government’.

Greenways

Lower case. One word, no hyphen: ‘greenways’.

H

Household waste recycling centres

Lower case.

I

ID

Upper case: 'ID card'.

Images

Images should be supplied at the highest resolution possible for the digital communications team to add to the website.

Logos should not be used unless they are legally required or part of a partnership programme. Feature story images should not include logos.

On the website, content images should be 250 pixels wide, and while there is no vertical restriction, the height of the image should be appropriate for the content on the page.

Images involving members of the public need to have the necessary permissions sorted before they can be added to the website.

All images should be appropriate for Derbyshire, particularly when using stock photographs as these can often depict scenes more appropriate for a North American audience. 

Images should include as little wording as possible, if any at all.

Italics

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

J

Jargon

Avoid jargon and council-speak. Try to use everyday speech and remember who your audience is – although jargon is useful between people sharing a certain type of knowledge anyone without that knowledge will be confused. Watch out for words and phrases such as: 

  • local authority – say ‘the council’ or ‘we’ wherever possible
  • resources – say 'money' or 'staff'
  • persons – say 'people'
  • additional – say 'extra'

(See also ‘plain English’).

Job titles

Specific job titles and councillors’ role titles are upper case, such as Leader of the County Council, Director of Legal Services.

Generic job titles are lower case, for example director, councillor, social worker.

When the person’s name precedes the title it should have lower case letters: ‘John Smith, business services assistant’. 

L

Legal content

This should be written in plain English. It’s important that our users understand content and that we present complicated information simply.

Where evidence shows there’s a clear user need for including a legal term (like bona vacantia), always explain it in plain English.

See .GOV guidance for writing well for specialists.

Links

There are a few rules about using links:

  • Links to other pages or websites should be in a related links section unless the customer can’t continue with the current page without first clicking through to the linked place. Then the link can be included in the text. The link text should describe the destination of the link: never use ‘click here’ or ‘read more’, always make the text flow within the sentence.
  • Write email addresses in full, in lower case and as active links. Don’t include any other words as part of the link.
  • Only link a page or website once in the text, don’t repeat each time the same phrase is used afterwards
  • Front-load your link text with the relevant terms and make them active and specific. Always link to the online service first, offer offline alternatives afterwards (if possible)
  • Don’t enter into reciprocal link arrangements – link to other pages, websites and organisations where there is value for us to do so, not to endorse or simply to get a link back from their site
  • If a link really needs to be written out in full, drop the http://www. prefix for example: derbyshire.gov.uk
  • 'Calls to action' (CTA) should only link to transactional content, such as fault reporting, browsing a database or filling in a form.
  • ‘Top tasks’ when added to a page should be as a multiple of 2 for consistency of style. They should link to either transactional content, such as reporting a fault, or popular information, such as term times.

Consider the following before adding a link:

  • Is the website you are linking to an official government or government-supported website? 
  • Does the website you are linking to provide official government information or services?
  • Does the website you are linking to complement and expand on information and services on derbyshire.gov.uk?
  • Is the recommended website accessible to a wide audience? If it is a government website you should assume steps have been taken to make the website accessible.
  • Is the content of the website you are linking to relevant and useful for visitors?
  • Does the site you are linking to appear to be accurate and current?
  • Is the website you are linking to user-friendly?
  • Does the website meet one or more of the following highly desirable criteria?
    • The website enables visitors to conduct transactions with government online
    • The website provides visitors with information they need to interact directly with government
    • The website provides visitors with information about service performance in the public sector
    • The website provides community-level information and services.

It’s a good idea to keep track of whether the links you’re providing are still relevant so check them each time you update your content. The Digital and Web Development team can also let you know whether anyone is clicking on your link – maybe it doesn’t need to be there at all or is in the wrong place on your page.

A disclaimer stating we take no responsibility for the content of external websites is included in the footer of every page on the website. You don’t need to add this information again within your part of the web page. 

See more information about our linking policy.

Local authority

Don’t use ‘local authority’ (see also ‘authority’). Use ‘we’ wherever possible. Where you need to use it, make it lower case and use ‘local council’ instead.

Don’t use ‘LA’.

(See also ‘tone of voice’).

Logos

See images.

O

Ofsted

Use an upper case O.

Online

One word, no hyphen.

P

Page summary

This should be a short summary and should be written with SEO in mind.

Parents and carers

Use 'parents and carers' instead of 'parents and guardians'.

Spell out 'and' rather than using a slash: 'parents/carers'.

Pin number

Lower case: 'chip and pin'.

Plain English

Using plain English doesn’t mean you are dumbing down your text, rather you are delivering your message in the clearest way possible.

Also, it isn’t just a list of words to avoid (although we use GOV.UK’s list for this) but is our communications ethos.

Examples of words to avoid are listed on GOV.UK. This list isn’t exhaustive but provides an example of words and language which could confuse customers.

Don’t forget that often you are writing for a mixed audience whose first language may not be English.

In general, don’t use formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. Use ‘buy’ instead of ‘purchase’, ‘help’ instead of ‘assist’, ‘about’ instead of ‘approximately’ and ‘like’ instead of ‘such as’.

We lose trust from people if we write council ‘buzzwords’, jargon or use bureaucratic language. These words are often vague and can lead to misinterpretation or meaningless content. We can do without these words.

Be open, and specific about what you’re doing instead. See gov.uk for more guidance on plain English.

Police

Officially it’s Derbyshire Constabulary, but refer to them as ‘the police’ (lower case) in general content.

Postcode

One word.

Press releases

Press releases follow the style guide used by our communication team.

S

Self-assessment

This compound noun should be hyphenated.

Sentence length

Don’t use long sentences – check any sentences with more than 25 words to see if you can split them to make them shorter. There is more advice on gov.uk about writing short sentences.

Short URLs

See URLs.

Special educational needs / special educational needs and disabilities.

Lower case but use upper case for the acronym ‘SEND’.

Steps

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

T

Team

Lower case.

Telephone numbers

Use ‘Tel: 011 111 111’ or ‘Mob: 01111 111 111’.

Always promote an email address or online form before adding a telephone number to your web page.

Take care when writing telephone numbers on the website. Make sure they are laid out clearly with spaces in between the numbers, for example: Tel: 01629 533190. Telephone numbers need to be clearly and consistently presented. Where you are putting a telephone number for a service area please use a direct dial number and not the switchboard and extension.

Remember the Call Derbyshire number: 01629 533190. You should only put the Call Derbyshire number where you have a pre-arranged agreement with them to use the contact centre. We always use the 01629 prefix rather than the 0845 number.

When a number is memorable, group the numbers into easily remembered units, such as 01773 87 87 87.

Top tasks

See ‘links’.

Town council

Both words should be lower case unless using the full name of the council.

Tone of voice

Write conversationally. Picture the customer and write as if you were talking to them one-to-one but with the authority of someone who can actively help.

Trading Standards

Upper case.

Trusted Trader

Upper case.

Twitter

Upper case. There are further brand guidelines on how to use the Twitter logo on the Twitter website.

U

URLs

URLs (web addresses) are important both as a navigation tool for users and as an element in SEO. URLs should:

  • be semantic, reflecting the site structure and being intuitively meaningful to non-expert users
  • not be repetitive – for example: rubbish-waste/recycling-centres/centre-locations/chesterfield instead of /waste-and-recycling/recycling-centres/recycling-centre-details/chesterfield
  • be lower case
  • be as short as possible with superfluous words such as 'and', 'a', 'an', and 'the' removed
  • use words and not contain acronyms wherever possible
  • use dashes to separate words to ensure they are easy to read
  • use the verb stem where possible, for example: /apply instead of /applying

URLs - short

Short, vanity or friendly URLs are redirects which sit at the top level of a site and resolve to a ‘full’ URL.

Short URLs should only be created when needed for significant offline marketing and promotion where users are required to type them in. By default, short URLs do not use hyphens.

For online promotion and linking, full URLs should be used.

V

Videos

Videos should be sent to the Digital and Web Development Team for uploading to YouTube before embedding on the website. They should be accompanied by a full transcript. 

Only one video to be embedded per page.

W

‘We…’

Use ‘we’ and other first person terms like ‘our’ and ‘us’ wherever possible to keep the tone conversational. The fixed elements of the web page, such as the header, will give the reassurance or confirmation that ‘we’ refers to Derbyshire County Council. As one council we shouldn’t refer to departments or teams in content unless it's vital to the customer for the information they’re reading or for them to access the service.

Words to avoid

By being open and specific you avoid metaphors and unnecessarily complicated language. By using plain English the information on derbyshire.gov.uk will be faster to read and easier to understand, helping our customers to do what they need to do faster.

Examples of  words to avoid can be found on gov.uk.

Y

‘You…’

Refer to customers as ‘you’ rather than ‘people’ or ‘residents’ so they feel we’re talking to them personally.

(See also ‘we…’).