Writing to Yukon.ca style

Date adopted: 
June 20, 2018
Last update: 
August 26, 2020

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 the guidelines on this site.

Plain language

Plain language is mandatory for all of Yukon.ca.

To help you write in plain language and keep content clear, understandable, concise and relevant, your content should be:

  • specific
  • informative
  • brisk but not terse
  • incisive (friendliness can lead to a lack of precision and unnecessary words) – but remain human (not 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 your user complete their task)

You should:

  • use contractions like you’ll (but avoid negative contractions such as can’t)
  • not let caveats dictate unwieldy grammar – for example, say "You can" rather than "You may be able to"
  • use the language people are using – use Google Trends to check for terms people search for
  • not use long sentences – check any sentences with more than 25 words to see if you can split them to make them clearer
  • write conversationally – picture your audience and write as if you were talking to them 1-to-1 but with the authority of someone who can actively help.

(Note: words ending in "–ion" and "–ment" tend to make sentences longer and more complicated than they need to be.)

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.

Write inclusively

There are no set rules for writing inclusively. It’s more a matter of being aware that using a word can sometimes have unintended consequences and reduce the perceived value of individuals and groups or of people’s experiences. The consequences of using certain words or phrases can have very real impacts on thoughts, behaviour, culture and organizational priorities.

However, when it comes to gender and other identities, we must also make sure we distinguish between “inclusive” and “neutral” language. For example, when we’re gathering information from Yukoners, it’s important that we include all gender and other identities. We must not avoid collecting information about diverse identities and we must not avoid complex discussions in favour of a more neutral approach. Email ecoinfo@gov.yk.ca for guidance on this.