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Content clinic 26 June: what we discussed

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The information in this blogpost may now be out of date.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

GDS runs a content clinic once a month, to give editors and writers from departments and agencies a chance to ask us about anything relating to publishing on GOV.UK. We publish what we talked about on this blog.

July content clinic: London and Bristol

There will be 2 content clinics in July:

If you'd like to attend either, sign up on Eventbrite using the links above. You'll need to use the password GOV.UKcontent.

Please submit questions and topics you'd like to discuss to as early as possible, so we have plenty of time to look at the history of your query.

Sentence length: 25 words

We were asked if the '25 word sentence rule' had been removed from the style guide. The guidance which says sentences should be around 25 words is actually in the Government Service Design Manual, under 'Learning disabilities'. As a result of the conversation at the clinic, we're adding the following guidance to the style guide:'Sentences with more than 25 words are frequently overly complicated and difficult to read. Check any sentences with more than 25 words to see if you can split them to make them clearer. If you can't, make sure they're in plain English and easy to understand.'The 2i checklist and the major and minor errors list for spot checks now also have the 25 word guidance.

Title length: 65 characters

We were asked if the 65 characters limit to titles is a guide or a rule. The style guide says "Keep all titles to 65 characters (including spaces)". There's no automatic cut off in Whitehall - you'll receive a warning that you've strayed over the limit - so technically it's only guidance.

But the character length is recommended as under 65 because search engines truncate (cut off) titles in Google search results over that number and words or parts of words will be cut off. This is why we advise you to front-load your titles, so that the most important information comes at the beginning of the search result.

Image copyright and licences: reusing images already on GOV.UK

If an image on GOV.UK follows the copyright guidance in copyright standards guidance, you can reuse any photo. However, if a photo has not been properly credited and attributed, you should check with the publisher before reusing. Whenever possible, use images which are available for reuse under either:

You can find Creative Commons images on:

There's more guidance in:


We were asked whether the new manuals format could be used for statistics or national statistics. At the moment there's an approval process for manuals, so let us know (via Zendesk) what you think would benefit from being a manual, and we’ll take a look.

Right aligned tables

We were asked if tables can be right aligned. This was prioritised a while ago but was pushed back when the developers' teams were reshuffled. We've made sure it's back on their to do list again. Thank you to Alan Cooke from the Home Office for reminding us.

If you have an example of a table which should be right aligned, please send it through Zendesk so we can make sure this happens soon.

Accessibility checks

We were asked what sort of accessibility checks we're running across GOV.UK and if developers in departments will receive regular reports.

Products that have been live for a while are regularly retested to make sure standards aren’t slipping. However we don't do anything automated as, according to Joshua Marshall, head of accessibility, the quality of automated accessibility testing is quite poor. The product teams get reports when accessibility testing is carried out and they’re looking at ways to make that more visible.

Content designers are responsible for making sure the content they publish is accessible. If you follow the guidance in the service manual and the style guide, then the content should be accessible. But if you have specific questions or concerns then the accessibility team can take a look or answer questions.

Graphs: style guidance

We were asked about style guidance for graphs. Currently, there's only guidance on bar charts, which can be created using Markdown. As for charts and graphs added as an image, we're working on guidance about infographics at the moment and will be able to share it in the future.

Spelling of WiFi/wifi/wi-fi

We've decided on 'wi-fi' for our official spelling of the wireless local area network. Wi-Fi is a trade name of the Wi-Fi Alliance, so we've decided to keep the hyphen to reflect the original name, but make it lower case, so it's easier to read. We'll add this to the A-Z section of the style guide.

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who attended the clinic, and those who submitted questions, including:

  • Elizabeth Brown from Public Health England
  • Doug Kennard from HMRC
  • Alan Cooke from the Home Office
  • Gavin Dispain from DfT
  • Pete Valente from the Youth Justice Board

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