Website Writing Guide

Writing for government websites

Government website do's and dont's

Citizens and businesses are quite a selfish lot! They believe that the information they are seeking from government websites should be all about them: relevant, easy to find and easy to understand. They have little patience for government promotional language, too many words and they hate jargon and acronyms.

Users generally do not care what department provides the information, program or grant, or why. They just want to know how and when to apply, comply or simply act as a responsible citizen or business owner.  

For writers of government websites this means standing in the shoes of the user when organising the content and writing the words.

Users expect content on government websites to be:

  • authoritative
  • accurate
  • up-to-date
  • comprehensive.

Users respond well to government websites where the content is:

  • relevant to them
  • written in a welcoming and friendly tone
  • easy to understand
  • easy to find
  • easy to use
  • helpful and informative.

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Users dislike it when government websites:

  • display content organised according to the department’s structures and services rather than the users’ needs or their way of thinking
  • use government jargon, acronyms and bureaucratic-speak
  • make them read the rationale for a program or grant before they see how to apply
  • assume they know or care what department or agency delivers the service or information
  • blatantly promote the government or a government program before giving them the information they want
  • make it hard for them to find information
  • overwhelm them with information
  • overwhelm them with hyperlinks to other websites
  • make them scroll down to find what’s important to them
  • provide irrelevant or insufficient information.

Your online audiences will be hugely impressed if you make your website easy to use, the information easy to find and understand and avoid all things that users dislike about government websites.

Exceeding users’ expectations of doing business online with government will do far more to promote the government, department, service or program than most online marketing strategy.


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