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With a lot of new organisations coming onto GOV.UK, I thought I would clear up a couple of style points.
Ampersands: why we don’t have them
We’re getting requests to use ampersands in organisation names that are written in full. We have ampersands in logos - the pictorial logo at the top of the page - but not in body copy.
The reason is that ‘and’ is easier to read and easier to skim. Some people with lower literacy levels also find ampersands harder to understand. As government, I know we would not want to exclude users in any way, so that’s why we have ampersands in logos only - not in copy. Don't worry - we're going to practise what we preach and remove ampersands from those areas of the site that we're responsible for.
We’re also getting requests for different types of date ranges. Take a look at this example:
'This information relates to 2013-14'
What does that mean to you?
For a start, the dash isn’t as easy to see as the word ‘to’ - so we remove the dash in date ranges. But when exactly do we mean here?
It could be the academic year, calendar year or tax year. That’s why we insist date ranges are very, very clear.
Use ‘tax year 2013 to 2014’ or ‘September 2013 to July 2014’. Or if you are comparing statistics from 2 different tax or financial years then use 'Comparing the financial year ending 2011 and that ending 2012, there was a 9% decrease' etc.
Remember: you’re on a site with over 21 million visits a month. We can’t guarantee your audience. We can’t guarantee everyone will understand what you mean. But we can make sure we get as close to accessible for everyone as we possibly can, simply by being very, very clear.
You can use contractions. Some new organisations are reluctant to use them. All I can say is that we have never encountered a problem with understanding when testing with users. Sometimes, lots of ‘cannot’, ‘should not’ etc can seem archaic and formal. That’s a tone I think we can move away from without jeopardising the overall tone of information coming from government.
Have you noticed…
…. this is a sort of frequently asked questions (FAQs) page? These questions are frequently asked, they are just structured so everyone can read them quickly and easily. Did it make any difference to your understanding of the page because there’s no actual questions?