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18F style guide pushes clear, accessible writing for web

July 7, 2015 (Photo Credit: 18F)

As part of its mission to make government websites more effective and accessible, the team at 18F published a content guide to help agencies write clearly, concisely and tailored for the web.

The guide suggests using more conversational language, aligning with the Plain Writing Act and best practices online.

Resource: 18F Content Guide

"We're proud to announce the release of our 18F Content Guide, a comprehensive handbook to help content creators on our team (and, we hope, elsewhere) create more direct, accessible, and compelling written works," wrote 18F's Kate Garklavs in a blog post introducing the guide.

The guide covers basic style elements like capitalization, comma usage and acronyms, as well as advice on technical writing and how to avoid FAQs.

Related: 18F builds agile contract for agile development

"Adopting a content style guide — especially one a team modifies substantially to better meet its needs — is a good way to set a baseline from which to work," Garklavs said. "Setting such a baseline allows teams to shift their focus from debating capitalizations (to cite a common example, and one we're all too familiar with) to producing top-quality content in a timely manner."

18F based its guide off of one produced by GOV.UK, adding elements taken from the AP Stylebook, Government Publishing Office, Conscious Style Guide and PlainLanguage.gov.

The guidance was written specifically for use by 18F, though the team hopes other federal agencies will use it, as well.

The new content guide is one of 11 18F has released to-date, including guidance on analytics, APIs and open source.

Resource: 18F Guides

"None of the content is particularly original or groundbreaking," 18F's Mike Bland said about the team's suite of guides. "However, organized well and cultivated over time through our open source process, these documented practices should enable us to share and apply knowledge across projects, allowing incremental improvement as our experience grows."

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