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Part of: Readability Guidelines


Last updated: 20 December, 2019

These guidelines are from

A. Clear language

Plain English

1. Choose easy and short words not formal, long ones.

2. Jargon and buzzwords are unlikely to be clear language.

3. Write conversationally, in first person, using the active voice.

4. Test your content with users.

Simple sentences

5. Make your average sentence 15 words long.

6. Avoid complex sentence structures.

Specialist terms

7. Explain specialist terms: anybody can access your content.

8. Create content that all users can understand, whatever their expertise or background.

9. Help users understand specialist terms.

10. Use plain English for highly literate audiences.

11. Use simple language for legal terms.

12. Explain the law in context.

13. Write medical information clearly.

14. Explain medical terms.

15. Use clear language for financial information.

16. Explain financial terminology.

17. Give examples of conceptual financial arrangements.

Words to avoid

18. Never use vague words and jargon.

19. Avoid metaphors.

20. Do not use Latin.

B. Grammar points

Abbreviations and acronyms

21. Do not use points or spaces.

22. Write out "for example" and "that is" in full.

23. Test with users, find out how familiar they are with your abbreviation.

24. If an acronym is better understood than the full text, use that.

25. Use all capital letters for initialisms.

26. Start with a capital letter for acronyms.

27. Capitalise single letters in expressions.

28. Provide full text explanations.

29. Consider providing a full explanation each time.


30. Avoid negative contractions.

31. Simple positive contractions may be fine.

32. Possessive nouns, which are read in a similar way to contractions, may be fine.

33. Avoid conditional contractions.

Hyphens and dashes

34. Only use a hyphen if the word is confusing without it.

35. Do not use hyphens for time and date ranges, instead use "to".

36. Make sure your hyphen usage is up to date.

37. Be consistent with your hyphen choices.

38. Avoid using dashes whenever possible.

39. If you do use a dash, use an en-dash, not a hyphen or an em-dash.

Capitals letters

40. Do not capitalise whole words or phrases.

41. Use sentence case in headlines and subheads.

42. Use sentence case for buttons.

43. Proper nouns are an exception.

44. Do not capitalise terms, unless they are proper nouns. 


45. Use "and" not the ampersand sign "&".


46. Use numerals instead of words for numbers.

47. Choose clear typography.

48. Be specific with data.

49. Use percentages.

50. Use "to" for number ranges, not a hyphen.

51. Use years and months not just months.

52. Use a space before KB and MB.

53. Spell out month in dates, write day as a numeral without "st", "nd" or "th".

C. Audiences, devices, channels

Talking to your audience: we, you, our, your, my

54. Make it clear who "we" is and who "you" is.

55. Be consistent: do not switch things round.

56. Decide how you will treat third parties.

Writing about people

57. Use respectful terms for disability, mental health and dying.

58. Avoid referencing age unless it's absolutely relevant.

59. Avoid referencing gender unless it's absolutely relevant.

60. Avoid referencing medical, mental or cognitive condition unless it’s absolutely relevant.

61. Avoid referencing heritage and nationality unless it's absolutely relevant.

62. Use “inclusive” or “accessible” for things designed to provide an equal experience.

Mobiles and tablets

63. Design for mobile first not last.

64. Always ask “How would this look on mobile?”.

65. Put calls to action close to content they relate to.

66. Test content with people using mobiles.

Social media

67. Capitalise the first letter of each word in hashtags.

68. Use the image description functions.

69. If you add a GIF image, include a description of it in your tweet.

70. Caption videos and multimedia.

D. Content design specifics

71. Make link text meaningful.

72. Avoid mid-sentence links.

73. 'Front-load' your link text.

74. Make call to action (CTA) links and button text specific.

75. Start CTA links and button text with a verb.

76. Make CTA links and button text 2 to 4 words.

77. Match the destination content.

78. Use sentence case.

Headings, titles

79. Use specific, meaningful headings.

80. Front-load headings.

81. Structure your page with headings.

82. Use sentence case for headings and subheadings.

83. Label your headings.

Also refer to these wiki pages: