This content and style guide is for written content on the My Health Skills website. This applies to the whole site so any information on www.myhealthskills.com should follow this guidance.
If you have any queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
1.1 Tone of voice
Your tone of voice is the way you express your personality. It’s not what you say but how you say it. By following the guidelines below we can ensure My Health Skills is confident but not arrogant, friendly but not familiar and intelligent but not confusing.
It is important for the content on My Health Skills to be authentic and consistent. By following the principles outlined below, people will be able to recognise and identify with the My Health Skills voice and tone no matter what content they are reading, which part of the site they are on or whichever group they are part of.
"We are friendly and professional."
The My Health Skills tone of voice is friendly and professional. Given the nature of the content we can’t be too informal but we need to be friendly to engage users and encourage them to be a part of the community, to create and join groups, to discuss and to share.
By using contractions such as we’re and you’re instead of we are and you are, and by avoiding jargon and cutting down on acronyms and business speak, we are talking to people in a friendly, approachable and engaging way. Just like we would if we bumped into them at the water cooler.
There’s more detail on this later in the guide but here’s an example of how we want to sound to our audience:
"My Health Skills is pleased to announce a new group, especially for those working with people whose lives are affected by cancer. Have a look and post your own thoughts and experiences. It’s good to share."
That’s much better than saying:
A new group has now been created and activated on the network. If you work with cancer victims and their families you may have an experience or information that you can add to the group in order to help and inform others.
Why is the first so much better? Well it is softer and friendlier. It is also loaded with positive words that encourage people to get involved. More importantly, it is professional and considerate when describing a serious illness and the people affected by it. People affected by cancer is better than cancer victims.
Unfortunately we work in a profession where there are lots of industry terms. We can’t assume that everyone will understand them and we don’t want to exclude anyone but they can change our tone significantly when used in excess.
Where possible use plain English, talk to people the way you would if they were standing in front of you and a good test for this is to read aloud what you have written. Does it sound like how you’d speak to someone in person? If not then you probably need to rewrite it.
For example, use ‘join’ instead of ‘become a member of’. Say ‘share your experiences with others’’ instead of ‘why not disseminate your learning to the network members.’
1.2 Addressing the User
Address the user as ‘you’ where possible. We are talking to people directly and want to encourage them to be a part of the network. People respond to people.
We also refer to ourselves as, well, ‘we’. My Health Skills is a group and we describe ourselves as such. Here’s an example:
We welcome anyone to our group. Here you can talk to other like-minded people about dementia.
It is ok to use we’re, you’re and most other contractions. It makes the tone friendly without losing any professionalism. Where possible avoid the use of should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. They aren’t wrong but they can make a sentence difficult to read and don’t always sound great.
1.4 Be Consistent
It is vital that we are consistent with our tone too. Hopefully this guide will keep you on track but if you are unsure if what you have written is suitable for the site, you can check with the global administrator or read some of the other content and see if it is similar in tone.
Here’s a good example of how to introduce your group:
This group is here for anyone passionate about improving the care of those living with dementia and their families. We welcome carers, those living with dementia and health care professionals, in fact anyone whose life is touched by dementia. Our ambition is to improve dementia care through improving education and skills of the Health Care Workforce. Come and help us make it a reality.
As well as explaining what the group is and who it is for, the tone is friendly. It encourages people to get involved by saying ‘we welcome carers ...’. It also ends in a professional and positive manner by inspiring others to help make the ambition a reality.
The description is full of positive words. We like positive words.
2.1 Be Concise
To be concise we need to make sure content is:
Don’t be overly descriptive with your content or too fluffy. Ensure it meets the four criteria above and users will be able to make quick decisions as to what groups and discussions are right for them.
They are also busy people so we want to make sure the time they spend on the network is efficient.
When writing a description for a group, it needs to have enough information for people to understand if it is relevant to them but that doesn’t mean writing paragraphs of text. An ideal group description would be around 100 words.
2.2 Jargon and acronyms
Acronyms and industry speak will be unavoidable at times. Whenever you use an Acronym for the first time, spell it out on that occasion. Like:
Northern Association for Persistent Physical Symptoms (NAPPS).
After the first time you can simply use NAPPS. Don’t use acronyms if you aren’t going to use them later on in the content.
There are some acronyms that are fine to use without spelling out in the first instance, this would include NHS and DVLA. Common ones that we say and hear regularly.
Don’t use full stops in abbreviations. It is BBC not B.B.C.
For other buzzwords and jargon ask yourself if it is really necessary. Official bodies, job titles and medical references are fine but outside of those instances use plain English. The best way to do this is by writing conversationally. Think about the audience you are talking to and write as though you are talking to them one-to-one.
Don’t worry about being too obvious, the more clear we are, the more accessible our information and network is to all.
Don’t use Americanisms. In the UK we fill in a form not fill out a form. We organise, we don’t organize.
Never write full sentences in CAPS. It’ll seem like you’re shouting and that’s not how we want to come across.
There are some cases when capitalisation is appropriate though:
- titles (Dr.)
- buildings (Royal Infirmary)
- publication names (Wall Street Journal)
- brand/company names (My Health Skills)
- places (Bristol, South Wales)
- job titles (Clinical Psychologist)
- names of schemes (Job Evaluation Scheme)
3.2 Dates and Times
It’s important to be consistent in how we write dates and times. If you are announcing an event for example.
We don’t use hyphens, so we write:
- Monday to Friday rather than Monday - Friday
- 24 May to 17 July
We also use am and pm rather than the 24 hour clock. We write:
- 2:30pm rather than 14:30
- 9am to 10am rather than 9 to 10am
Whenever you refer to a news item, don’t state last week or today unless you also include the actual date in brackets. It is an important reference point to time stamp news and events.
3.3 Contact Details
All contact details should be written in the same way.
Email address are written lowercase and in full: email@example.com
Phone numbers are written without the international prefix but with the dialling code. Always use spaces too: 029 2012 3456 or 07929 123456, not 02920123456 or +44 (0) 7929123456.
The Twitter username is always written as: @MyHealthSkills
Use only 1 space after a full stop. Not 2.
3.5 Bullet Lists
It’s fine to use bullet lists as this can make content easier to read and digest. When you do have a list, make sure there is a sentence leading into it.
All bullets start with a lowercase word and we don’t need to end each one with a full stop, this also applies to the last bullet in the list. This is how it should look:
Here is a line to introduce the list
That looks better than:
- Line 1 without an intro leading to it.
- Line 2 with capitals and now a full stop.
- Third line is just as bad as the previous two.
- And don’t get us started on this line.
It’s ok to use abbreviations but do write and instead of using an ampersand (&).Eg, ie, etc are also fine but don’t use full stops between the letters or after. Eg not e.g.
If you have a question about content, tone and formatting that isn’t covered in this guide, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.