Content style guide

We aim to be consistent across the website, online forms and other Northamptonshire County Council publications.

Please refer to the GOV.UK government digital style guide - we will follow the advice on this.

Northamptonshire-specific terms

The list of rules below provides additional guidance on how we write certain terms on the Northamptonshire website.

If you would like something added to the list, please email your suggestion to webteam@northamptonshire.gov.uk

A

Abbreviations

When using e.g. and i.e. make sure there are full stops after each letter.

  • use ‘e.g.’ when giving examples or a list of examples
  • use ‘i.e.’ when reiterating a previous point using different words (it roughly means ‘in other words’)
Accordions

​If you wish to have a heading in an accordion, please bold the text rather than use any of the 'heading' styles.

Addresses

​No full stops at the end of addresses

No comma between the number and the street name

Do not abbreviate Road, Street, Avenue

No comma between town or county and postcode

Building numbers that cover a range (196-198) should be separated by a dash with no spaces

Where the address is in a city or major town, do not include the county:

Northamptonshire County Council
County Hall
Northampton
NN1 1AX

If the address is for a department, put the department name first:

Community Services
Northamptonshire County Council
County Hall
Northampton
NN1 1AX

Adoption

​Mention that children are adopted only when relevant to the story.

Use 'birth father', 'birth family' rather than 'real father', 'real family', etc.

Ampersand (the '&' symbol)

​Avoid use of '&'. Instead use ‘and’, unless it’s in a company or department name.

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B

Bold

Use bold sparingly. Overuse will reduce impact.

Only use for emphasis.​

Bulleted lists

​The text introducing the list should end with a colon. If a continuous and standalone sentence then a full stop should be placed at the end. Each sentence should also start with a capital letter (example below):

This is a bulleted list:

  • A standalone sentence that explains something of relevance to the reader. It, therefore, needs a full stop to separate from the next bullet.
  • A standalone sentence that explains something of relevance to the reader. It, therefore, needs a full stop to separate from the next bullet.
  • A standalone sentence that explains something of relevance to the reader. It, therefore, needs a full stop to separate from the next bullet.

If the bulleted list doesn't have proper sentences then there is no need for a full stop or capitalisation at the start of each bullet point (example below):

This shows reasons to use a bulleted list:

  • short and concise
  • key information absorbed quickly
  • no need for lengthy sentences

Do not use semi-colons at the end of bullet points or conjunctives (e.g., and, or, etc.). Consider the reason for using bullet points; if you're bulleting long sentences it might be better to split into shorter, more concise text or remove from the bulleted list and create short paragraphs.

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C

Capital letters

​Headings and page titles should be in sentence case (have their first word capitalised only):

E.g. Children, families and education

Subject areas and job titles are all lower case.

Exceptions: Proper nouns, official titles (books, and so on) and course titles written in full. Examples below:

  • Jim Harker is the leader of the county council
  • Final policy decisions are made by the Leader of the County Council, Jim Harker

If unsure whether specific terminology is capitalised or not, refer to GOV.UK style guide.

  • All caps when referring to GOV.UK website
Council

Use capital C in council only when referring to a council by its full name (ie Northamptonshire County Council).

Use lower case for council when using in a sentence without a town or city preceding it (ie 'call your local council').

When referring to the the council, or Northamptonshire County Council, use the singular form of verbs, eg

'the county council offers free parking' (not 'the county council offer')

However, use 'we' when talking on the council's behalf, eg

'we offer free parking'

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D

Dates

​Remove the suffixes from the day number e.g. Monday 10th should be Monday 10. This is due to the difficulty some screen readers have with them.

Disability

​Refer to the GOV.UK guide on inclusive communication for how to produce communications that include, accurately portray, and are accessible to disabled people.

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E

Email

​One word, no hyphen.

Exclamation mark

​Avoid use of exclamation marks!

If you have a piece of information that you want to stand out, you can use the exclamation mark style.

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F

Forward slash

​Not to be used in titles or headings. Try to replace with 'and' / 'or'. Make sure there is a space on both sides of the slash e.g. see policy on highway maintenance / repairs.

Full stops

​Use at the end of proper sentences, even in link text. The example below should have a full stop.

full stop image tile example 

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H

Headings and titles

Page titles, headings and sub-headings should use sentence case: use an initial capital for the first word only.

Never use all capital letters.

How to apply for a school place

not

How To Apply For A School Place

or

HOW TO APPLY FOR A SCHOOL PLACE

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I

Italics

​Italics are hard to read on screen and should not be used as they can cause problems for people with visual impairment.

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J

Jargon

Avoid jargon and council-speak.

Sometimes terms that are specific to the council, such as Children and Young People’s Partnership, cannot be avoided. Write these terms out in full the first time they are used.

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L

Links

Link text should always clearly identify the page or document it is linking to.

If it links to a document it should also say the format and size of the document.

The appropriate icon should be displayed after the bullet and before the text:

  •   Web author user guide (PDF 215KB)
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P

Paragraphs

​Paragraphs should be kept short on web pages.

Research shows that most people will scan a web page. Heavy blocks of text are not easy to read on screen and vital points can be missed.

Use a bulleted list to emphasise the main points wherever possible.

Parents and carers

​Use 'parents and carers' instead of 'parents and guardians'.

Spell out 'and' rather than using 'parents/carers'.

Plain English

Aim to be as clear and concise as possible.

Using plain English does not mean you are dumbing down your text, rather you are delivering your message in the clearest way possible.

Don’t forget that often you are writing for a mixed audience whose first language may not be English.

see The Plain English Campaign

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Q

Quotation marks

​Use of single quote marks or inverted commas when highlighting or referring to an object, document, place or thing.

  • e.g. You should navigate to ‘About us’ to find out more.

Use of double quote marks are only to denote someone speaking or being quoted in speech and from text.

  • e.g. Joe Bloggs was at the scene and told us “I could see it all. They were all there.”

If using quotes over two or more paragraphs (run on) then use an open double quotation mark " at the start of each paragraph until the final paragraph. Then close the quotes with " (closed double quotation mark).

e.g. "More than 99% of British and European passengers arriving at Heathrow are dealt with within 25 minutes. For passengers from outside the European Economic Area, 87% of passengers have been dealt with within 45 minutes.

"Border Force and British Airways have an agreement to close the Terminal 5 ePassport gates at 11pm every evening. In recent months, Border Force has kept the gates open beyond 11pm - often to accommodate passengers arriving on delayed British Airways flights.

"The security of our border is paramount - which is why 100% of scheduled passengers are checked when arriving in the UK. While every effort is made to keep delays for passengers to a minimum, we make no apology for carrying out this important work."

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S

Slashes (/)

​Avoid the use of slashes.

Where possible use 'and' or 'or' instead, eg parents or carers.

Spaces

​There should never be more than one space in succession in text, not even after a full stop.

Use one space between sentences.

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T

Tables

​These are an easy way to display information, such as schedules, dates of events and listings.

Ensure tables are formatted using the 'Grey striped' design (as below). Try to give the table headings for clarity of information being shown.

​Example headingExample heading​Example heading​
​Body text​Body text​Body text
​​Body text​Body text​​​​Body text
Time
  • ​use ‘to’ with a space either side for time ranges, not hyphens e.g. 9am to 10am
  • do not use the 24 hour clock, use ‘am’ and ‘pm’
  • use a colon between hour and minutes, not a full stop e.g. 5:20pm (not 5.20pm)
  • spell out the duration of time, do not abbreviate to ‘hrs’ or ‘mins’ e.g. 2 hours 10 minutes
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U

Underlining

​Text should never be underlined on a web page or in a document that is uploaded to a website.

Underlines indicate links and could be confusing for the user.

Units of measurement

​Spell out the measurement in the first instance, then abbreviate. Should be written without a space between the number and unit of measurement e.g. 2cm, 3m or 45km.

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W

Web addresses

Web addresses or links should be added as hyperlinks, so the full link does not display, eg

not

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