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Style Manual

Types of structure

Structure supports the user as they search for information. Design structural elements, like headings and paragraphs, to help the user scan the page.

Structure content to help the user to navigate and understand

Structure helps people find information. It helps people to understand and use content by:

  • preparing them for what they will read
  • helping them navigate and scan content
  • helping them remember what they’ve read.

Structure also helps search engines. They use structure to find and rank content in a search results listing.

Accessibility requirements

Write clear page titles. The title is the first thing a screen reader user hears and is the first item to appear in search results.

Organise content in a clear order using section headings.

WCAG quick reference:

Pick the type of structure that works for the user

Use a structure that matches expectations for the type of content you are creating:

Avoid unconventional or inconsistent structures. They make people work harder to find and understand content. Do user research to understand who will be using the content and their level of literacy.

Your organisation might have templates for content such as reports, letters and emails. Structural elements are built into those templates.

Design headings and other elements to help the user scan the page

Once you have decided on the type of structure you need to use, plan the structural elements.

Structure your content by writing about one idea at a time:

  • Start with the most important idea first.
  • Group related ideas under headings.
  • Organise ideas into short paragraphs.
  • Make sure ideas flow from one paragraph to the next.
  • Use a logical order for sentences.

Release notes

The digital edition canvasses types of structure. It focuses on the inverted pyramid, and narrative structure is new.

The sixth edition and the Content Guide were silent on the inverted pyramid and narrative structure.

The sixth edition had advice on inductive and deductive patterns of writing, and on linear and non-linear structures. These are not covered in the digital edition.

The digital edition builds on a short paragraph from the sixth edition about sequential structure. It also has more concise information on hierarchical structure. 

The Content Guide did not have advice on these topics.

About this page


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This page was updated Monday 21 September 2020.

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