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Australian Government Coat of Arms

Style Manual

Getting started

How to find what you need in Style Manual.

Style Manual basics

This manual is designed for you to use as a resource. It will help you meet the government standard for content.

You can use it to learn how to apply government style to all kinds of content formats. It tells you how to write and edit user-focused content. Basics, like doing research with users, are new to this edition.

Guidance (headings) on each page help you work through what you need to know about:

  • creating content for government
  • rules and conventions to create consistent content.

It also links to other credible resources.

You can use it for services and products, designed for end-users (external-facing content). It’s equally applicable to content for government users (internal-to-government content).

Your organisation might have its own style guide. Check if it is current and refers to this comprehensive government standard.

A style rule

You’ll find clear rules and examples throughout the manual.

Look up a topic that you’re interested in. Use the ‘Guidance’ headings at the top of each page to scan rules for different topics.

  • Each heading leads to a concise statement of guidance.
  • Boxed examples illustrate the guidance.
  • Paired example boxes compare what to do and what not to do.
  • Highlighted words in example boxes isolate what part of the text the rule applies to.
  • You’ll also see further explanation of examples in square brackets.

The search function will pick up keywords to help you find the right topic, so you can quickly find the heading you’re looking for.

Accessibility fundamentals

The manual has basic information about accessible content. You’ll find this information highlighted in the context of specific topics.

Work with these accessibility standards. They are reminders of what you need to consider so your content is accessible to every user.

Highlighted standards link to technical resources. You can easily find which ones are relevant to the content you’re creating.

Plain English

You’ll find guidance on plain English in ‘Clear language and writing style’. But you won’t find the term ‘plain English’ in the manual.

Plain language is the common term in Style Manual. Plain language is not only about how you write something (expression). There are 4 other aspects:

  • audience and purpose
  • structure
  • design
  • evaluation.

The manual covers each aspect, under ‘Understanding needs’ and ‘Format, writing and structure’.

(‘Design’ is based on the principles of content design. Visual and graphic design are not part of this edition of Style Manual.)

Sixth edition information

Style Manual is the single, up-to-date source of government style guidance. It replaces the sixth edition of the manual, dated 2002.

Departures from the sixth edition are evidence-based. Release notes on each page give you an idea of what has changed. Sources listed under ‘evidence’ support that the change reflects updated style for government.

You can also review a summary of what’s new, updated or changed in the changelog.

DTA Content Guide

Style Manual is the single, up-to-date source of government style guidance. It replaces the DTA Content Guide.

The release notes capture departures from Content Guide.

You can also review a summary of what’s new, updated or changed in the changelog.

Sources that Style Manual relies on

Changes to Style Manual are and will continue to be evidence-based. Each page has a form so you can give us feedback for future releases.

We based style decisions for this digital edition on:

  • evidence from corpus data and user research
  • Australian and international style rules and guidance
  • best practice in accessibility and readability.

Evidence

Sources cited as evidence on any given topic relate directly to the rules on that topic.

The authoring team took ‘usability’ evidence as a starting point. The writing and review process had the hallmarks of ‘robust evidence’, as described in Content Design London’s Readability Guidelines.

References

Reference lists point to sources that authors consulted, not only the sources that informed rules and guidance.

Users involved in the service design and delivery process

This edition has involved continuous user research. Unpublished user research findings have informed the information architecture and presentation of material. The cross-government Working Group provided feedback on guidance in private Beta.

If you work for the Australian Government, you can also sign up for upcoming rounds of user research. Contact stylemanual@dta.gov.au.

About this page

This page was updated Thursday 24 September 2020.

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