Writing in plain language

Date adopted: 
June 2, 2021
Last update: 
March 28, 2022

Government writing needs to be accessible for everyone. It needs to be easy to understand, concise and relevant. 

What you write should be:

  • specific
  • informative
  • to the point but not terse
  • clear – as sometimes a friendly style can lead to a lack of precision and unnecessary words
  • serious but not pompous
  • objective – 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:

  • aim for a reading level of Grade 6 to 9 – this is our standard for Yukon.ca but it's also a good guide for all public materials
  • use contractions like "we're" and "you’re"
  • use the language people are using – use Google Trends to check for terms people search for online
  • 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
  • avoid using long sentences – check any sentences with more than 25 words to see if you can split them up to make them clearer
  • not let caveats dictate unwieldy grammar – for example, say "You can" rather than "You may be able to"
  • for web content, avoid negative contractions such as "can't" and "won't" by writing them out as "cannot" and "will not" – this is because they're easy to misread when we scan web content

Find out about how people read.

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's 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".

Using ‘we’

When you write "we", make it clear as much as possible who the "we" is. Do not assume the audience will know. I’s not obvious who "we" is in all content. For example, web users might enter the content in the middle of a page or section. They could arrive at a 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's ambiguity who "we" refers to.

Writing for Yukon.ca

Plain language is mandatory for all of Yukon.ca. Yukon.ca needs to be accessible for everyone. We can do this by simply being very, very clear.

Follow the Government of Yukon Style Guide and all the guidelines on this site.