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What to check before you publish: a 2i checklist

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The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.

I spent last week at the Department for Transport, working with the content designers there. Ahead of this, we came up with a checklist for reviewing (or ‘2i-ing’) content, to help us remember what to look for. It’s not an exhaustive list (that’s in the style guide and How to publish on GOV.UK). Most of the content criteria come from our guidance for transition.

Content criteria

Should this content be on GOV.UK? GOV.UK is for services, information and advice that only government can provide. Nothing else.

Content can go on GOV.UK if it meets a clear user need and:

  • is information or a service only provided by government
  • explains what people, businesses or professionals can do, need to do or need to know before they can do something that is regulated by government
  • explains the purpose of a government organisation
  • is, or relates directly to, something the government provides, does or pays for

It shouldn’t go on GOV.UK if it’s:

  • general advice
  • information that’s already on GOV.UK
  • information or services reliably provided by non-government organisations
  • internal procedures or tools for civil servants
  • legislation that can be found on

2i checklist

Check that the content:

Titles must be:

  • clear and specific
  • optimised for search
  • under 65 characters (including spaces)
  • unique within the site (check search results on GOV.UK)
  • in sentence case
  • written in plain English (no jargon)

Summaries should:

  • expand on the title without repeating it
  • explain the point of the page and make sense in search results
  • be written in full sentences (with a verb and a full stop)
  • be front-loaded with words users are likely to search for
  • be written in plain English (no jargon)
  • explain any acronyms in the title
  • be fewer than 140 characters (including spaces)

Body text should:

  • begin with what’s most important to users (not to government)
  • be concise and easy to scan (with sub-heads every 3-5 paragraphs)
  • be written in plain English (no jargon) and easy to understand
  • use short sentences (around 25 words)
  • define acronyms and abbreviations the first time they’re used (with Markdown)
  • explain any technical terms
  • be shorter than 500 words, if possible


  • always check the GOV.UK style guide
  • bullet points have a lead in line and start with a lower case letter
  • numbers are written as numerals (including 1 to 9)
  • don’t use full stops in abbreviations or acronyms
  • describe the destination of any links (don’t use ‘click here’)
  • use ‘and’ rather than an ‘&’, unless it's a department's logo image
  • don’t use bold, italics, CAPS, semicolons, underlining or exclamation marks!!!
  • check the formatting (Markdown) for headings, bullets and acronyms
  • government organisations are singular (eg ‘FCO is’, not ‘FCO are’)
  • use ‘to’ in date and time ranges, not hyphens or ‘/’
  • write email addresses in full, in lower case and as active links

Check in Publisher if:

  • content is tagged to the relevant policy
  • the topic is correct
  • there are notes about who ‘owns’ the content
  • it’s a 'silent' update or has a clear change note
  • the publication date is correct (no embargo)
  • access is set correctly (limited if necessary)

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  1. Comment by Jeni Pitkin posted on

    Hi Persis,

    Thanks for sharing. It's a good summary. Government Digital Services did a blog a short while back with a checklist. It had major and minor errors to check against. I found it useful and shared with our editors:

    Is this version still valid?

    • Replies to Jeni Pitkin>

      Comment by Persis Howe posted on

      Hi Jeni,

      Thanks for your comments.

      The list we published of major and minor errors is from our blog on spot checks, and is still current. It's far more complete than this checklist, so please keep using that, if you prefer.

      Several content designers asked for a quick checklist for 2i, that they could tape to their screens. We couldn't quite make it that short, but we hope this helps keep the main points in mind when you are looking over content.


  2. Comment by Jeni Pitkin posted on

    Hi Persis,

    Thanks for your reply. The quick checklist will definitely be helpful. Please could you clarify one of the items in the list:

    'Body text should be shorter than 500 words, if possible'

    When you refer to the body do you mean the 'Detail' section of a publication? A lot of our detailed guides have more than 500 words.



    • Replies to Jeni Pitkin>

      Comment by Rosie Cowling posted on

      Hi Jeni,

      We mean the body of the content (for example a news story or a case study), not the detail on a publication page, which should be as concise as possible.

      We recognise that some formats will be longer than 500 words, for example detailed guides. In this case, make sure it's broken up under well written, front-loaded headings so that users can navigate the content quickly and easily.


  3. Comment by E. Brown posted on

    HI Persis and Jeni,

    I'm really glad Jeni flagged the word limit up. I hadn't registered that there is now an ideal word length.

    Reviewing the style guide, the only word length limit I can find is for news stories and it suggests an upper limit of 750 words. I can't find any other mention of how long a piece of content is.

    If you've defined one, can you please explain its origin? What evidence did you base it on? And where in the style guide will you add it?

  4. Comment by E. Brown posted on

    Hi again,

    Come to think of it, is the guidance about 25 or 30 words max, and the guidance about breaking up content every 3-5 paras in the style guide?

    The principles are there, but these are the first actual figures I've seen.

    Can you clarify where I can find this guidance in the style guide, rather than the blog?

    • Replies to E. Brown>

      Comment by Persis Howe posted on

      Hi Elizabeth,

      You're right. While we say several times in the style guide that it's important to be concise, we don't give word limits because there is no ideal length for a piece of content.

      What we do know is that reading levels drop after 100 words on a web page. We know it's difficult to skim large chunks of text with no headers, particularly for people with cognitive difficulties. We know sentences over 25 words are difficult to follow.

      We work on the principles of being consistent, but not uniform (see the Design Principals). So we hope giving these numbers will help you with your editing.


  5. Comment by Anita posted on

    Principles surely.