Writing in plain language

Date adopted: 
June 2, 2021
Last update: 
June 2, 2021

Government writing needs to be easy to understand, concise and relevant. What you write should be:

  • specific
  • informative
  • to the point but not terse
  • clear – as friendliness can sometimes lead to a lack of precision and unnecessary words, though always remain human and avoid sounding like a faceless machine
  • serious but not pompous
  • emotionless – adjectives can be subjective and make the text sound more emotive and like spin
  • focused on the facts – this makes it easier for you to remove irrelevant information and help people get the details they need

You should:

  • use contractions like "we're" and "you’re" but avoid negative contractions such as "can't" and "won't" – write those out as "cannot" and "will not"
  • use the language people are using – use Google Trends to check for terms people search for
  • write conversationally – picture your audience and write as if you were talking to them 1-to-1 and with the authority of someone who can actively help
  • avoid words ending in "–ion" and "–ment" as they tend to make sentences longer and more complicated than they need to be
  • not use long sentences – check any sentences with more than 25 words to see if you can split them to make them clearer
  • not let caveats dictate unwieldy grammar – for example, say "You can" rather than "You may be able to"

Active voice

Name the action you want your user to take. For example – apply for funding, find an office, register for a workshop, get your Yukon health care card.

Use the active rather than passive voice.

The active voice makes it clear who is responsible. In active voice the subject performs the action expressed by the verb.

Active voice: Register your personal property lien through a professional.

In passive voice the subject receives the action expressed by the verb.

Passive voice: Personal property liens can be registered through a professional.

Address the user as 'you'

Address the user as "you" where possible. Content on the site often makes a direct appeal to citizens and businesses to get involved or take action. For example, "You can contact us by phone and email" or "Pay your vehicle registration".

When to use ‘we’

Using "we" is fine, as long as you’re making it clear as much as possible who the "we" is. Do not assume the audience will know.

However, it’s not obvious who "we" is in all content. For example, users might enter the content in the middle of a page or section. They could arrive at an H2 heading from the navigation bar on the side, or skim read from the top until they find the section they want. Use the full name of the department or program area if there is ambiguity who "we" refers to.

Writing for Yukon.ca

Plain language is mandatory for all of Yukon.ca. Yukon.ca needs to accessible for everyone as we possibly can, simply by being very, very clear.

It’s important to stick to the Government of Yukon Style Guide and all the guidelines on this site.