Designing a computerised style guide for the UK government


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Editor Software are discussing designing a computerised style guide for the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman.

The style guide will be built into the Software for Writers’ StyleWriter 4 software that encourages clear and concise writing.

We propose using the Government Digital Service style guide published on UK.GOV as the starting point for a government-wide style guide. To this guide, we’d coordinate the needs of other departments and agencies to make it a comprehensive tool for every civil servant to use.

We would like other departments and agencies to be part of such an initiative so we could create a plain English and government-wide style guide tool. We are now contacting communication manager and heads of media to gauge interest in working on this project to improve the style and clarity of every document produced in the civil service.

This email explains:

The StyleWriter software
Adding a UK government style guide to StyleWriter
The benefits of plain English

The StyleWriter software

The idea for StyleWriter came when I was working in the Australian civil service as a publications manager. The aim was to design a program to turn bureaucratic writing into a model of plain English.

Based on plain English principles of clear and concise writing, StyleWriter contains thousands of ways to rewrite words, phrases, word patterns and sentences into in plain English. It mimics how a professional subeditor redrafts writing by cutting passive verbs, wordy phrases, jargon and sentences that are long, wordy or unreadable. It also has a graded dictionary to give the most accurate readability measures and advice consistent with the Oxford dictionary on spelling, preferred spelling, hyphenation and word division.

StyleWriter shows anyone how to redraft a document into plain English. It has the endorsement and recommendation of the UK’s Plain Language Commission.

Designing a computerised style guide for the UK government“In more than 20 years running face-to-face writing courses,
I have seen nothing as effective as StyleWriter and the
Electronic Writing Course in delivering long-term writing improvement.
They are truly remarkable tools.”

Martin Cutts – Head of UK’s Plain Language Commission

Before and after with StyleWriter

StyleWriter reviews the 190-word document below to show the writer how to redraft in plain English. The result is a 115-word redraft that is clear, concise and readable. StyleWriter typically saves over 25 per cent of the words and produces clearer communication. The more a writer uses StyleWriter, the better writer he or she becomes.Designing a computerised style guide for the UK government

I work as a senior marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company.
StyleWriter showed us we’re not very good – no we’re dreadful – at communicating with our customers.
Since using StyleWriter, I’ve gained the skill of writing clearly.
It’s like shining a searchlight through a sea of corporate fog.
Marketing Executive

Editing with StyleWriter is more than a simple click to replace with an alternative. We’ve designed it to show people how to edit using plain English principles. Often that means rethinking the sentence. If you look at our demo in our next blog post, you’ll see how the program changes the style from government-speak to plain English – saving 75 words.

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




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