In the grand American tradition of borrowing, the United States' UX team, 18F, based their content guidelines on the GOV.UK's — and open-sourced their work, so anyone at any organization can kickstart their guideline development. 18F's principles focus on simplifying and making accessible the thorny language governments tend to throw at us, and I for one couldn't be happier about it.
This guide was developed for 18F employees, but we hope it’s a useful reference for anyone.
This guide helps writers create content that’s easy to understand and meets people where they are. Government websites often talk at readers rather than to or with them. As with other facets of its online presence, .gov writing tends to describe the government’s concerns in “governmentese,” leaving users frustrated by information that is neither actionable nor understandable.
This guide takes that frustration into account, as well as several commonly supported guidelines about writing for the web. Using this guide can help content designers benefit from our experience to date, incorporate user feedback into the editorial process, and build trust by communicating in a consistent manner.
We created this guide for reference on an as-needed basis. It’s here when you’re wondering whether to capitalize the word federal, for instance, or when you’re wondering how to create a friendly, informational tone.
To this end, we’ve structured the guide into descriptively named sections. Find the topic you’re looking for in our table of contents, or search by keyword. We aren’t opposed if you’d like to read this guide start to finish, of course.
As a work of the federal government, this project is in the public domain within the United States. Additionally, we waive copyright and related rights in the work worldwide through the CC0 1.0 Universal public domain dedication.
We encourage you to make a copy of this guide and adapt it to your organizational needs. This guide is just that: a guide. It’s not meant to provide the final opinion on any of the topics discussed. If a certain section isn’t relevant to you and your team, delete it. And if you feel the guide is missing a section, by all means, add it. This guide is yours to use, and we trust you’ll update it in the ways that best suit you.