Checklist for publishing on the Analysis Function website
This checklist will help you check your content to make sure you are following the accessibility standards and style guides for the Analysis Function (AF) website.
Acronyms and abbreviations
We must expand acronyms and abbreviations when we first use them. This includes the acronyms “AF” for “Analysis Function”, and “ONS” for the “Office for National Statistics”. When you spell out an acronym you should put capital letters at the start of each word in the acronym. For example, “Senior Civil Servant (SCS)”.
Do not use full stops in abbreviations. You should write “ONS”, not “O.N.S”, for example.
If a page is very long, you should consider expanding acronyms the first time they are used in each section of the page. This is because we know users often skim read and skip whole sections to find the information they are interested in.
You do not, however, need to expand an acronym if you think it would be commonly understood by at least 80% of the UK population. For example, you do not need to expand acronyms like BBC, NHS, PhD, and MSc.
Example of bad practice:
This seminar is the latest in a series organised jointly by the RSS, the RES, ESCoE, ONS and the SPE.
Example of good practice:
This seminar is the latest in a series organised jointly by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), the Royal Economic Society (RES), the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence (ESCoE), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Society of Professional Economists (SPE).
Bold, italic and underline
You must not:
- use italic fonts or underline words to draw them out of text — this makes content hard to read for people with dyslexia
- mix up different types of fonts
- use different colour fonts
- use bold to highlight words in text
It is best practice to consistently use one type of font across the whole website.
Be consistent with how you present bullet points. Follow the advice for bullet points on the Government Digital Service style guide.
Too many capital letters make sentences hard to read, particularly for people with dyslexia.
We should only use capital letters for proper nouns and the first word in a sentence or heading.
The names of any “groups”, “schemes” or “teams” are generally considered proper nouns. This means each word in the title should have a capital letter. For example, the “Analysis Function Central Team”.
We do not capitalise the word “government” on the AF website unless it is a full title. For example, “His Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” or “Welsh Government”.
If we use the full name of a publication we give it capital letters and treat it as a proper noun. For example, the “Code of Practice for Statistics”. But, if we refer to a publication in a more generic way, we do not use capital letters. For example “the code” or “the standard”.
The term “Civil Service” is capitalised but the term “civil servant” is not. This is the convention across multiple government websites.
Do not use negative contractions like “can’t” and “don’t”. Many users find them harder to read, or misread them as the opposite of what they say. Use “cannot” instead of “can’t” and “do not” instead of “don’t”.
You should also avoid “should’ve”, “could’ve”, “would’ve”, and “they’ve”. These can also be hard to read.
Write dates in order of date, month, and year. For example, write 12 March 2014, or Monday 3 March 2014.
When writing dates, do not use abbreviations for ordinal numbers, such as “st”, “nd”, “rd”, and “th”.
If the day of the week is relevant, put it before the date.
Write out months in full, unless you have limited space in a table of data, in which case abbreviations can be used.
Write email addresses in full and as active links. This means the link will automatically open a user’s default email provider. Do not include any other words in the link text.
Use capital letters to break up the words. For example, write “Analysis.Function@statistics.gov.uk” instead of “email@example.com“. This helps people read the email address. Also, when email addresses have no full stops between the words, using capital letters like this helps screen reader software read the email address correctly.
We only publish documents like PDFs in exceptional circumstances. Please email Analysis.Function@ons.gov.uk if you think you need to publish content in a document format.
Reasons to move away from PDFs, word documents and spreadsheets:
- they are not best practice in terms of accessibility
- search engines cannot look inside these formats meaning content is harder to find
- these formats are harder to keep up to date than webpages because the editing process takes longer and the editable copy of the PDF often gets lost
- they disrupt navigation as if a user gets taken directly to a document they cannot navigate back to the relevant webpage.
Headings and subheadings must be tagged correctly across the website so that screen reader software can understand how content is structured.
The Government Digital Service recommends an upper limit of 65 characters for page titles. This helps ensure a search engine never cuts off the end of your content.
Hyperlinks (links to different webpages)
Check all hyperlinks in your content are sending users to the correct place.
Do not use directional text for hyperlinks such as “click here” or “see below”. This sort of text is misleading for users of screen reader users.
Hyperlink text should be a specific description of the destination page, not just “blog post” or “network”. This helps screen reader users scan content. For example, “Find more information about accessibility on GOV.UK.”.
If you are linking to a document published on another website, you should link to an HTML page that hosts a link to the document, not the document itself.
We follow the advice on writing numbers in the GDS style guide and the Office for National Statistics’ content style guide.
The main points are:
- write all numbers 10 and over as numerals, up to 999,999
- write numbers one to nine as words unless they are dates
- in numbers of 4 digits or more use commas after every 3 decimal places e.g. 2,548
- write out millions and billions and use lower case, for example 2.5 million, 148 billion
- write out and hyphenate fractions, for example two-thirds, three-quarters
- percentages: use the symbol with no space between it and the number, for example 6%
- for money, use the major currency unit before the amount, for example £15, $76.56
- write out rankings first to ninth, then use numerals, for example, 10th, 51st
- when using rankings do not use superscript for “st”, “nd”, “rd” and “th”
When it comes to quotes and speech marks we follow the Government Digital Service style guide.
Readability and plain English
All content on the AF website should have a readability score of Grade 9 or lower and be written in plain English. If it is not, we will have to make edits to the language used.
If your content does not contain any sensitive unpublished material, paste it into the online Hemingway App. It will give you a grade level score.
If you cannot use the Hemingway App, then use the readability tools on Microsoft Word. This will give you a ‘Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level’. How to find your readability score on Word.
The Hemingway App is more helpful than Word so use this if you can.
You can also look at this list of words to avoid from the Government Digital Service style guide.
Spelling and grammar
Always run a spelling and grammar check and correct any mistakes.
Screen readers may or may not read out particular symbols depending on user settings.
Generally it is better to avoid using symbols where we can.
Avoid using an ampersand symbol (&), write out the word ‘and’ instead.
If a forward slash symbol is used to show ‘or’, replace it with the word ‘or’. If a slash is needed, there should be no space either side of it.
Do not use dashes to indicate a span of time or range of monetary amounts. Use ‘to’ instead. For example, write ‘£36,000 to £40,000’ for a salary band not ‘£36,00 – £40,000’.
Sometimes symbols are needed and generally understood by screen reader software. On the AF website we use all standard punctuation symbols and %, £, $,°, @.
What this checklist is based on
Content published on the AF website must meet legal accessibility standards.
We also try to follow the British Dyslexia Association’s style guide and guidance around how screen readers interpret webpages.
It is also important to be consistent in any online communication. Consistency helps people to scan content so it’s easier for them to find what they want. To ensure consistency we follow the style guide provided by the Government Digital Service (GDS). When something is not mentioned in the GDS style guide (for example some of our advice on writing numbers) we refer to other government guidance such as style guide from the Office for National Statistics.