Adding a UK government style guide to StyleWriter


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To show how you how a style guide would work in practice, I’ve listed 20 of the current entries in the UK.GOV published guide.

Designing a computerised style guide for the UK government
Please see: for the letter A and explained how StyleWriter would check for inconsistencies with the recommended form.

A*, A*s
UK.GOV  Style Guide: The top grade in GCSEs and A levels. Use the symbol * not the word ‘star’. No apostrophe in the plural.
StyleWriter:  Checks text for and highlights as incorrect:  A star, A Star, A STAR, A-star, A-Star, A-Star, A star’s, A Star’s, A STAR’s, A-star’s, A-Star’s, A-Star’s.  Offers the advice to use A* or A*s for GCSE and A levels.  Do not use an apostrophe in the plural form.

A level
UK.GOV  Style Guide: No hyphen. Lower case level.
StyleWriter:  Checks text for and highlights as incorrect:  A Level, A Levels, A-Level and A-Levels Offers advice to use A level or A levels.

Abbreviations and acronyms
UK.GOV  Style Guide: The first time you use an abbreviation or acronym explain it in full on each page unless it’s well known, like UK, DVLA, US, EU, VAT and MP. This includes government departments or schemes. Then refer to it by initials, and use acronym Markdown so the full explanation is available as hover text.

If you think an acronym is well known, please provide evidence that 80% of the UK population will understand and commonly use it. Evidence can be from search analytics or testing of a representative sample.

Do not use full stops in abbreviations: BBC, not B.B.C.

StyleWriter: Built into the program’s plain English editing philosophy is advice on keeping abbreviations and acronyms under control.  The program highlights all acronyms used in the document (except the most common in everyday use such as UK, BMW, BBC).  This is similar to the advice given in the UK.GOV guide. Writers can either ask for the abbreviations and acronyms to be displayed in the document or see a list of all those in the document.  Departments or individuals can make exceptions by defining a common acronym as a ‘Must-use’ acronym and the program will no longer highlight them in the text.

We’d propose a list of 30 common acronyms used in the UK and widely known to the public that we make exceptions so the program does not highlight them.  We also propose a longer government-wide acronym list that was familiar to those working in government, such as GDP, GNP, PPI.  Each agency could add a wider list, specific to its agency.  When using StyleWriter, writers could choose between running an edition set up for the public, the civil service or the agency.  In this way, the advice would reflect the style guide depending on the audience.


UK.GOV  Style Guide: Write lower case

  • the academies programme
  • academy converters
  • academy order
  • academy trust
  • alternative provision
  • animal health
  • apprenticeship programme
  • armed forces
  • assembly ministers
  • applied general qualifications

StyleWriter:  We can code StyleWriter to highlight these phrases if any letter is in upper case.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: academy
Only use upper case when referring to the name of an academy, like Mossbourne Community Academy. See also Titles.
StyleWriter:  We would code StyleWriter to highlight the capitalised word Academy unless it was preceded by a word with a capital letter.  In this way, the program would accept Community Academy or Mossbourne Academy, but would highlight as incorrect if used in a sentence such as:  When you apply to an Academy with overseas qualifications…

UK.GOV  Style Guide: Access to Work
Use Upper case when referring directly to the actual programme, otherwise use lower case.
StyleWriter:  We would highlight both Access to Work and access to work and offer the UK.GOV advice.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: accountancy service provider
Upper case when referring to the business area covered by Money Laundering Regulations. Do not use the acronym.
StyleWriter:  We would highlight both accountancy service provider and Accountancy Service Provider and offer the UK.GOV advice.  We would add ASP as a banned acronym.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: Accounts Office
Use upper case.
StyleWriter:  Checks text for and highlights as incorrect:  accounts office, Accounts office, accounts Office, accounts office’s, Accounts office’s, accounts Office’s.  It then offers the correct form, Accounts Office or Accounts Office’s

UK.GOV  Style Guide: Activation PIN
Upper case. Activation PIN has been changed to Activation Code on outgoing correspondence from the Government Gateway. Until all hard-coded instances of Activation PIN have been removed from the Online Services pages, use ‘Activation Code (also known as Activation PIN)’.
StyleWriter:  StyleWriter can first check to make sure Activation PIN is always written as shown.  It would run a second check and advise to use Activation Code as the preferred form.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: act, act of Parliament
Lower case. Only use upper case when using the full title: Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, for example.
StyleWriter:  We can add all significant acts to StyleWriter and therefore check for correct capitalisation:  Planning and Compulsory Purchase actWe can also highlight the word Act when it appears in text and give the UK.GOV general Advice.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: Active voice
Use the active rather than passive voice. This will help us write concise, clear content.
StyleWriter:  As a major feature of the StyleWriter plain English editing advice, the program finds, measures, rates and highlights the use of passive verbs in documents.  The program has a passive index measure and rating to tell writers if they are overusing the passive voice.  A pop-up help screen shows writers how to switch from passive verbs to active verbs.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: Addressing the user
Address the user as ‘you’ where possible. Content on the site often makes a direct appeal to citizens and businesses to get involved or take action: ‘You can contact HMRC by phone and email’ or ‘Pay your car tax’, for example.
StyleWriter:  The program encourages the user to write with personal pronouns.  Writing in the active voice is one way to bring more personal pronouns into government writing.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: Adoption Register
Upper case when referring to the national Adoption Register.
Lower case in subsequent mentions that do not use the full term: the register.
StyleWriter:  We would code StyleWriter to find the phrase Adoption Register when not written with capital letters and the term the Registerand display the UK.GOV advice.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: adviser
For example, special adviser. Not advisor, but advisory is the correct adjective.
StyleWriter:  This advice, and the preferred spelling of hundreds of similar words, is already in StyleWriter.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: al-Qa’ida
Not al-Qaeda’ or ‘al-Qaida.
StyleWriter:  Will find the forms al-Qaeda or al-Qaida and offer the correct form: al-Qa’ida.  The program will check for correct spelling, apostrophe and hyphenation.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: American and UK English
Use UK English spelling and grammar. For example, use ‘organise’ not ‘organize’, ‘modelling’ not ‘modeling’, and ‘fill in a form’, not ‘fill out a form’.
American proper nouns, like 4th Mechanized Brigade or Pearl Harbor, take American English spelling.
StyleWriter:  Already finds and highlights American spelling and expressions.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: Ampersand
Use and rather than &, unless it’s a department’s logo image or a company’s name as it appears on the Companies House register.
StyleWriter:  Similar advice already on StyleWriter.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: antisocial
No hyphen.
StyleWriter:  StyleWriter offers this advice.  It has UK hyphenation and word division advice built in.  It checks that words such as taxpayer and cost-effective always take the correct form (based on the Oxford dictionary) for around 30,000 words and phrases.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: arm’s length body
Apostrophe, no hyphen.
StyleWriter:  We can check for both a missing apostrophe and the presence of a hyphen.

UK.GOV  Style Guide: Attendance Allowance
Upper case.
StyleWriter:  We can make sure this is always written upper case.

For more information and further information please see previous news posts:




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