Words and phrases
Follow these basic rules if you write for the Acas website. If you are reviewing someone else's work, check that they follow them.
Always follow the Acas style guide.
Tone of voice
The Acas tone of voice is:
- easy to understand
Do not be too formal. Write like you are helping a friend.
Write in plain English. Use simple, common words.
Remember Acas's content can be mentioned in court. Write simple content that is accurate.
Short words and sentences
Use short words and short sentences. They're easier to read.
Avoid words that are longer than 8 letters.
Try to replace long words with shorter ones.
We cannot avoid some long words – for example, 'conciliation'. We need to use long words if our users are searching for them.
Avoid sentences that are longer than 15 words.
We should make 1 point per sentence.
Long sentences are often just 2 shorter sentences joined together by an 'and' or 'but'. Split these into shorter sentences.
Always use the active voice. It's stronger and clearer than the passive voice.
What the active voice is
Many sentences contain 3 parts:
- subject – the thing that takes action
- verb – the action
- object – the thing that is acted upon
In the passive voice, the object comes first. The object is acted upon by the subject. For example, "it was done by me."
In the active voice, the subject comes first. The subject takes action on the object. For example, "I did it."
The active voice is:
- simpler – and often shorter
- easier to understand
- more compelling
- 'you should do this' is better than 'this should be done by you'
- 'contact the Acas helpline' is better than 'the Acas helpline can be contacted'
- 'your employer might ask you' is better than 'you might be asked by your employer'
Emotion is important.
Writing for people who are stressed
Write clearly and simply.
You can mention emotion in the content.
For example, you could remind employers that their employees might find change stressful.
We sometimes link to organisations that offer support.
Do not assume that every user is stressed or upset. For example, in redundancy: some people might be angry, others might be happy.
We need to persuade our users, for example:
- to follow good practice
- to book our training courses
Write like you are speaking to the user and able to help them.
This is the same for every type of content – including marketing content. Do not use meaningless adjectives. Be confident, enthusiastic and explain why users should do something.