Plain English

What has changed

All online content must be easy to read and understand.

Don't use government speak, jargon or acronyms that are not commonly used by Territorians or businesses.

Pages must be written in plain English, using short sentences and sub-headings every six paragraphs where possible.

The most important information must go at the top of the page, using keywords that Territorians and businesses would use in a search engine.

Why has this change been made

Making pages easy to read

Users do not want to know what a department is trying to achieve or the rationale for a program or grant. They are rarely interested in background. 

Many residents in the Territory speak English as their second, third or fourth language. Writing in plain English means it can be understood by everyone.

Writing for all literacy levels is important - it opens the content up to all people.

For example GOV.UK, the world leader in this field, aims for a reading age of nine. Read more about this on the GOV.UK website

You should aim to write as simply and clearly as you can. If you need to include technical detail, spell it out for less capable users.

You need to take into account the least experienced or educated users for your particular content or you are excluding them.

Research has shown a proven link between higher education and an appreciation for simple language and a dislike for jargon.   

Research on how people read the web

Research by the United Kingdom Government shows users don’t necessarily read top to bottom or even from word to word on a web page.

It shows users only read about 20 to 28% of a web page. Read more about this on the GOV.UK website.

Web user eye-tracking studies show that people read a webpage in an F-shaped pattern. They look across the top then down the side, reading further across when they find what they need. 

Read more about this on GOV.UK website or the Australian Government Digital Transformation Office Digital Service Standard.

Last updated: 28 November 2017