How you should write for GOV.WALES.

First published:
3 October 2019
Last updated:

A

Abbreviations and acronyms

The first time you use an abbreviation or acronym explain it in full on each page unless it’s well known, like UK, NHS or BBC. This includes government departments or schemes. Then refer to it by initials.

Do not use full stops in abbreviations: NHS, not N.H.S.

Do not use an acronym if you’re not going to use it again later in the text.

Addressing the user

Address the user as ‘you’ where possible. Content on the site often makes a direct appeal to get involved or take action: ‘You can apply for a blue badge by contacting your local authority’, for example.

Active voice

Use the active rather than passive voice. 

Americanisms

Organise not organize. Exceptions include where it’s part of a specific name, for example ‘4th Mechanized Brigade’.

You ‘fill in’ a form, not ‘fill out’ a form.

Ampersand

Use 'and' rather than an '&' unless part of a brand name, for example HM Revenue & Customs.

antisocial

No hyphen.

B

Brackets

Use (round brackets), not [square brackets]. The only acceptable use of square brackets is for explanatory notes in reported speech.

“Thank you [Foreign Minister] Mr Smith.”

Do not use round brackets to refer to something that could either be singular or plural, like ‘Check which document(s) you need to send to Rural Payments Wales.’

Always use the plural instead, as this will cover each possibility: ‘Check which documents you need to send to Rural Payments Wales.’

Brexit

Not ‘EU Exit’.

Bullet points

Usually use bullet points between paragraphs of text and in this case:

  • use a lead-in sentence and follow it with a colon (:)
  • use lower-case at the start of each bullet
  • do not use full stops within bullet points, where possible start another bullet point or use commas or semi-colons to expand on an item
  • do not put ‘or’, ‘and’, ‘;’ after the bullets
  • ensure bullets make sense running on from the lead-in sentence
  • do not use numbered bullets unless appropriate, for example the 7 core aims for children and young

You may use bullet points immediately following a heading and in this case each bullet point:

  • starts with a capital letter
  • finishes with a full stop
  • is short (no more than one sentence)

C

Capitals

Never use BLOCK CAPITALS for large amounts of text as it's difficult to read.

Capitalise:

  • buildings
  • place names
  • brand names
  • job titles, ministers’ role titles: Minister for Science and Skills
  • the Earth (our planet), Planet Earth and Earth sciences
  • faculties, departments, institutes and schools
  • names of groups and directorates, for example Health and Social Services Group
  • titles of specific acts or bills: Trade Union (Wales) Bill (but use ‘the act’ or ‘the bill’ after the first time you use the full act or bill title)
  • names of specific, named government schemes well known to people outside, for example Right to Buy

Do not capitalise:

  • government never Government, even when referring to an elected administration, (so not the Afghanistan Government) unless part of a specific name, like Welsh Government or Welsh Local Government Association
  • minister, never Minister, unless part of a specific job title, like Minister for Science and Skills or referring to the Welsh Ministers as a group
  • department or ministry never Department or Ministry, unless referring to a specific one: Ministry of Justice, for example
  • page titles or the titles of publications only initial cap on first word and the entire title in single quote marks, for example ‘Implementing self-financing for council housing’ (unless it includes a phrase which should be capitalised for other reasons for example ‘Review of the Right to Buy scheme’)
  • white paper, green paper, command paper
  • group or directorate, unless referring to a specific group or directorate, for example Welfare Reform Task and Finish Group
  • departmental board, executive board, the board
  • policy themes, for example sustainable communities, local enterprise zones

Caveats

Do not let caveats dictate unwieldy grammar for example say 'you can' rather than 'you may be able to'.

Contractions

Use non-negative contractions, for example 'they've', 'we'll'. Avoid using 'should've', could've', 'would've' as these are hard to read.

Do not use negative contractions, for example don't and can't. Strong evidence shows users misread these and risk making the wrong decisions.

Council

Use 'local authority' to refer to councils.

D

Dates and times

Use upper case for months: January, February.

Do not use a comma between the month and year: 14 June 2012.

We use ‘to’ in date ranges not hyphens, en rules or em dashes. For example:

  • tax year 2011 to 2012
  • Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (put different days on a new line, do not separate with a comma)
  • 10 November to 21 December

Do not use quarter for dates, use the months: ‘department expenses, January to March 2013’.

Midnight is the first minute of the day, not the last. You should consider using '11:59pm' to avoid confusion about a single, specific time. For example, 'you must register by 11:59pm on Tuesday 14 June' can only be read 1 way. But 'you must register by midnight on Tuesday 14 June' can be read in 2 ways (the end of Monday 13, or end of Tuesday 14).

When referring to today (as in a news article) include the date: ‘The minister announced today (14 June 2012) that…’

deputy permanent secretary

Lower case in text. Upper case in titles: Owen Evans, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Education and Public Services.

Disabled people

Use 'disabled people' and never 'the disabled'. GOV.UK has more advice on inclusive language.

E

eg, etc and ie

eg can sometimes be read aloud as ‘egg’ by screen reading software. Instead use ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’ or ‘including’ whichever works best in the specific context.

etc can usually be avoided. Try using ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’ or ‘including’. Never use etc at the end of a list starting with these words.

ie used to clarify a sentence is not always well understood. Try (re)writing sentences to avoid the need to use it. If that is not possible, use an alternative such as ‘meaning’ or ‘that is’.

Email

One word.

Email addresses

Write email addresses in full, in lower case and as active links. Do not have any other words in the link, including labels like this:

Email: name@domain.gov.uk

F

FAQs

You should avoid using FAQs on GOV.WALES. If you write content by starting with user needs, you will not need to use FAQs.

free school meals

Lower case.

further education (FE)

Lower case.

G

Geography and regions

Compass directions are all in lowercase: north Wales, south Wales.

The same applies to geopolitical regions: the west, western Europe, the far east, south-east Asia.

Note the following: Middle East, Central America, North America, South America, Latin America.

You can use a capital for a shortened version of a specific area or region if it’s commonly known by that name, for example ‘the Gulf’ for the Persian Gulf. If it’s not in common use in the media use lowercase, for example ‘the strait’ for ‘the Strait of Hormuz’.

Great Britain refers only to England, Scotland and Wales excluding Northern Ireland.

If you are telling users about multiple areas, use: ‘England, Scotland and Wales.’

Use UK and United Kingdom in preference to Britain and British (UK business, UK foreign policy, ambassador and high commissioner). Note British embassy, not UK embassy.

government

Lower case even when specific: Afghanistan government, UK government.

Welsh Government as this is the organisation's name.

H

Headings

Headings should be a few words of helpful, descriptive text which aid page scanning. Try and use at least 1 heading every 2 paragraphs to help visitors distinguish which blocks of text are for them as they scan a page. Only initial cap on the first word.

Use the appropriate 'Heading' style for each heading.

Do not be afraid to be creative to make sure you convey what’s in the text below although avoid presenting headings as questions. 'Who can apply' not 'Who can apply?'

higher education (HE)

Lower case.

Hyphenation

Hyphenate:

  • re + word starting with ‘e’, for example re–elect
  • co-ordinate.

Do not hyphenate:

  • reuse
  • reorder
  • reopen
  • email
  • antisocial

Do not use a hyphen unless it’s confusing without it, for example, a little used-car is different from a little-used car. 

Use ‘to’ for time and date ranges, not hyphens.

I

Italics

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

J

Jargon

Avoid unnecessary jargon, legalistic prose, unexplained abbreviations or acronyms, rarely used Latin terms (for example inter alia, ad hoc, ibid).

We lose trust from our users if we write government 'buzzwords' and jargon. Often, these words are too general and vague and can lead to misinterpretation or empty, meaningless text. We need to be concrete, use plain English and be very clear about what we are doing.

Job titles

Specific job titles and ministers’ role titles are upper case: Minister for Science and Skills.

Generic job titles and ministers’ role titles are lower case: director, minister.

K

L

Legal language

Legal content can still be written in plain English. It’s important that users understand content and that we present complicated information simply.

If you’re talking about a legal requirement, use ‘must’. For example, ‘your employer must pay you the National Minimum Wage (NMW)’.

If you feel that ‘must’ does not have enough emphasis, then use ‘legal requirement’, ‘legally entitled’ or similar. For example: ‘Once your child is registered at school, you’re legally responsible for making sure they attend regularly’.

When deciding whether to use ‘must’ or ‘legally entitled’ or similar, consider how important it is for us to talk about the legal aspect, as well as the overall tone of voice.

If a requirement is legal, but administrative, or part of a process that will not have criminal repercussions, then use: ‘need to’. For example: ‘You will need to provide copies of your marriage certificate’.

This may be a legal requirement, but not completing it would just stop the person from moving on to the next stage of a process, rather than committing a more serious offence.

legislative competence order

Upper case if used as the full title: the National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Social Welfare) Order 2008.

Lower case otherwise: the legislative competence orders (LCOs) are approved, rejected or withdrawn.

Lists

Lists should be bulleted to make them easier to read.

Very long lists can be written as a paragraph with a lead-in sentence if it looks better: ‘The following countries are in the EU: Spain, France, Italy…’

local authority

Lower case. Do not use LA.

Use local authority, instead of local council where possible.

local council

Lower case.

Use local authority instead of local council where possible.

M

Measurements

Use numerals and spell out measurements at first mention:

  • 4 metres squared
  • 10 kilograms (except in where abbreviations can be used to save space).

If the measurement is more than one word, for example ‘kilometres per hour’ then spell it out the first time it is used with the abbreviation. From then on, abbreviate. If it is only mentioned once, do not abbreviate.

Use Celsius for temperature, for example 37°C.

Millions

Always use million in money (and billion): £138 million.

Use millions in phrases: millions of people.

But do not use £0.xx million for amounts less than £1 million.

Do not abbreviate million to m.

Money

Use the £ symbol: £75

Do not use decimals unless pence are included: £75.50 but not £75.00

Do not use ‘£0.xx million’ for amounts less than £1 million.

Write out pence in full: calls will cost 4 pence per minute from a landline.

N

N/A

Separate with a slash. Only use in tables.

national

Lower case.

Refers to Wales. If a policy area, such as justice, covers England and Wales, it should always be referred to as ‘England and Wales’. Any policy area, for example welfare and defence, which covers the whole of the UK, should be referred to as UK policy, a UK-wide issue or UK government policy.

National Assembly for Wales

Use the National Assembly for Wales in the first instance, thereafter the National Assembly or the Assembly.

Never use Welsh Assembly.

Numbers

Write all numbers in numerics (including 1 to 9).

For numerals over 999 insert a comma for clarity. ‘It was over 9,000’.

Use a % sign for percentages, so 50%.

Use ‘500 to 900’ and not ‘500–900’.

Do not start a sentence with a numeric, use the word.

O

oral statement

Lower case.

Organisations

All organisations are singular: The government has decided to sell assets.

The definite article can be used when referring to the organisation by its full name, but should not be used with the organisation’s acronym: ‘You should contact the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales if…’ but ‘You should contact CSSIW if…’

P

public sector

Lower case.

Q

Quotes and speech marks

In long passages of speech, open quotes for every new paragraph, but close quotes only at the end of the final paragraph.

Use single quotes:

  • in headlines
  • for links
  • for unusual terms
  • when referring to words or publications, for example: ‘view ‘understanding Capital Gains Tax’

Use double quotes in body text for direct quotations.

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

R

S

semicolons

Avoid semicolons as they are often mis-read. Long sentences using semicolons should be broken up into separate sentences instead.

Sentence length

Do not use long sentences. Keep average sentence length 20 words or fewer.

Spaces

One space after a full stop, not 2.

standing order

Lower case unless used as the full title: Standing Order 22.

T

Tables

Tables are used to present tabular data. 

Tables are not used to control page layout.

Tables must be accessible, if you are unsure what this means contact the Corporate Digital Team.

In tables, words should always be left aligned and numbers should always be right aligned.

Telephone numbers

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

Use spaces between city and local exchange. Here are the different formats to use:

  • 01273 800 900
  • 029 2087 2087
  • 0800 890 567
  • 07771 900 900
  • 077718 300 300
  • +44 (0)29 2087 2087
  • +39 1 33 45 70 90

When a number has been chosen to be memorable, group the numbers into easily remembered units, for example 0800 80 70 60.

Titles

Page titles should:

  • be 65 characters or less
  • be unique, clear and descriptive
  • be front-loaded and optimised for search
  • consider using a colon
  • not contain dashes or slashes
  • not have a full stop at the end
  • not use acronyms unless they are well-known, like EU
  • be sentence case

Document (file) titles should:

  • be the formal title of the document
  • not have a full stop at the end
  • be sentence case

Follow the more detailed guidance in content types > publications.

U

UK government

Never HM government.

V

W

Welsh Assembly

Do not use Welsh Assembly.

The 2 organisations are the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales.

Welsh language style guide

The Welsh side of this style guide is slightly different. You should use the English style guide when writing in English and the Welsh style guide when writing in Welsh, as some aspects are relevant to one language but not the other.

Welsh Government

Use Welsh Government.

Do not use Welsh Assembly.

written statement

Lower case.

X

Y

Yr arddulliadur

Welsh language style and language guide for Welsh Government translators, and for third party translators for Welsh Government. You should use the arddulliadur along with this style guide when writing in Welsh for GOV.WALES.

Z