Checklist for creating content for the Government Statistical Service (GSS) website
This checklist will help you check your content to make sure you are following the accessibility standards and style guides we adhere to on the GSS website.
Acronyms and abbreviations
We must expand acronyms and abbreviations when we first use them.
Example of bad practice:
This seminar is the latest in a series organised jointly by the RSS, the RES, ESCoE, ONS and the SPE.
Example of good practice:
This seminar is the latest in a series organised jointly by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), the Royal Economic Society (RES), the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Society of Professional Economists (SPE).
- If you think 80% of the UK population will understand a commonly used acronym you don’t need to expand it on first use. Examples include: BBC, NHS, PhD and MSc.
- GSS and ONS must always be expanded on first use to Government Statistical Service and Office for National Statistics respectively.
- Do not use full stops in abbreviations, e.g. BBC, not B.B.C.
- If a page is very long, we should expand acronyms on their first use within each section as we know users often skim read and skip to sections lower down.
- When we spell an acronym out we should put capital letters at the start of each word in the acronym, e.g. ‘Senior Civil Service (SCS)’.
Bold, italic and underline
We must not use italic fonts or underline words to draw them out of text as this makes content hard to read for people with dyslexia.
We must not mix up different types of fonts, use different colour fonts or use bold to highlight words in text. It is best practice to consistently use one type of font across the whole website.
We need to be consistent in how we present bullet points. We follow the advice for bullet points given in the Office for National Statistics’ style guide.
Too many capital letters make sentences hard to read, particularly for people with dyslexia.
We should only use capital letters for proper nouns and the first word in a sentence or heading.
- if you are referring to any ‘groups’ or ‘schemes’ or ‘teams’ then the names of these are generally considered proper nouns – this means these words also get a capital letter as they are part of the proper noun, e.g. the ‘Good Practice Team’
- we don’t capitalise the word government on the GSS website unless it is a full title, e.g. ‘Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ or ‘Welsh Government’
- if we refer to the Code of Practice for Statistics with its full name we give it capital letters and treat it as a proper noun
- if we refer to the Code of Practice as ‘the code’ we don’t give the word ‘code’ a capital letter
- the term “National Statistics” is a proper noun but the term “official statistics” is not (this is the convention across multiple government websites)
Write dates in this order: date, month, year.
Do not use “st”, “nd”, “rd” and “th”.
If the day of the week is relevant, put it before the date.
Write out months in full.
Examples of good practice:
- 12 March 2014.
- Monday 3 March 2014.
We recommend you write email addresses in full and as active links. This means the link will automatically open the default email provider. Do not include any other words in the link text.
Use capital letters to break up the words. For example, write GSSHelp@statistics.gov.uk instead of email@example.com. This is because screen readers are more likely to read the content correctly if capital letters are used in this way.
This is an update to our original advice so you may find email addresses across the GSS website still written in lowercase at the moment.
We are no longer publishing content as documents or PDFs or spreadsheets, except in very exceptional circumstances. Please email GSSNet@statistics.gov.uk if you think you need to publish content in one of these formats.
Reasons to move away from PDFs, documents and spreadsheets:
- they are not best practice in terms of accessibility
- search engines cannot look inside these formats meaning content is harder to find
- these formats are harder to keep up to date than webpages because the editing process takes longer and the editable copy of the PDF often gets lost
Read more about why website content should be published in HTML and not PDF.
Headings and subheadings must be tagged correctly across the website so that screen readers can understand how content is structured.
When you use our online submission form you can select headings formatting from the text editor to make headings and subheadings clear. Email GSSHelp@statistics.gov.uk if you want help with doing this.
The Government Digital Service recommends sticking to 65 characters for page titles to ensure a search engine never cuts off the end of your content.
Hyperlinks (i.e. links to different webpages)
- Check all hyperlinks in your content are sending users to the correct place.
- Don’t use directional text for hyperlinks such as “click here” or “see below” – this sort of text is misleading for users with screen readers.
- Hyperlink text should be a specific description of the destination page, not just “blog post” or “network”.
- If you are linking to a document published on another website please link to the page the document lives on, not the document itself.
Example of good practice:
You can find more information about accessibility on GOV.UK.
The main points are:
- write all numbers 10 and over as numerals, up to 999,999
- write numbers one to nine as words unless they are dates
- in numbers of 4 digits or more use commas after every 3 decimal places e.g. 2,548
- write out millions and billions and use lower case e.g. 2.5 million, 148 billion
- write out and hyphenate fractions e.g. two-thirds, three-quarters
- percentages: use the symbol with no space between it and the number e.g. 6%
- for money, use the major currency unit before the amount e.g. £15, $76.56
- write out rankings first to ninth, then use numerals e.g. 10th, 51st
- when using rankings don’t use superscript for “st”, “nd”, “rd” and “th”
When it comes to quotes and speech marks we follow the Government Digital Service style guide.
Readability and plain English
All content on the GSS website should have a readability score of Grade 9 or lower and be written in plain English. If it is not, we will have to make edits to the language used.
If your content does not contain any sensitive unpublished material, paste it into the online Hemingway App. It will give you a grade level score.
If you can’t use the Hemingway App, then use the readability tools on Microsoft Word. This will give you a “Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level”. How to find your readability score on Word.
The Hemingway App is more helpful than Word so use this if you can.
You can also look at this list of words to avoid from the Government Digital Service style guide.
Spelling and grammar
Always run a spelling and grammar check and correct any mistakes.
Screen readers may or may not read out particular symbols depending on user settings.
Generally it is better to avoid using symbols where we can.
Write out ‘and’ at all times. Do not use an ampersand symbol.
If a forward slash symbol is used to show ‘or’, replace it with the word ‘or’. If a slash is needed, there should be no space either side of it.
Don’t use dashes to indicate a span of time or range of monetary amounts. Use ‘to’ instead. E.g. write ‘£36,000 to £40,000’ for a salary band instead of ‘£36,00 – £40,000’.
Sometimes symbols are needed and generally understood by screenreaders. On the GSS website we use all standard punctuation symbols and %, £, $,°, @.
What this checklist is based on
Content published on the GSS website must meet legal accessibility standards.
We also try to follow the British Dyslexia Association’s style guide and guidance around how screen readers interpret webpages.
It is also important to be consistent in any online communication. Consistency helps people to scan content so it’s easier for them to find what they want. To ensure consistency we follow the style guide provided by the Government Digital Service (GDS). When something isn’t mentioned in the GDS style guide (for example, something specific to statistics) we use to the style guide from the Office for National Statistics.