Everything we write counts

Each communication is an opportunity to make our organisation better - by solving a problem, simplifying a task, prompting a decision or building a relationship. Tone of voice guidelines help us to express our personality and make our communications more engaging.

Our tone of voice should convey a personality that's:

  • purposeful
  • agile
  • collaborative
  • expert.

Purposeful

We have clear goals, we don’t sit on the fence and we finish what we start. That takes conviction and determination, which comes through in language that’s assured, positive, forward-looking and focused on outcomes.

  • Focus on outcomes
    Ask: What do I want to happen? What do I want my audience to do, think and feel? Once you’re clear about outcomes, use them to guide everything you say.

  • Talk about the future
    Use future-focused words and phrases to talk about what will be. When you’re talking about the past make connections with the future.

  • Say it with conviction
    Limit the use of tentative words such as possibly, hopefully or maybe.

Agile

We’re responsive and we think on our feet. So we don’t waste our words: we say what we're going to do and we do it. That’s why we use the active voice and talk in terms of actions rather than things.

  • Choose active language
    Make it clear who is doing what in a sentence, by using active language. It’s leaner, more transparent and encourages initiative by giving clear ownership of the task.

  • Use more verbs
    Inject energy by choosing the verb rather than the noun.

  • Be concise
    Less is more. Break text up into short paragraphs and sentences and if in doubt, cut it out.

Collaborative

We’re united and know we're better together. We’re willing to step into our readers’ shoes; to see their perspective. Our empathy is evident in the inclusive, conversational way that we speak and the way our words create pictures that give everyone a shared view.

  • Step into your reader's shoes
    What’s their agenda? What’s their interest? Would they like to know? Will it help them to know? What’s the best way to tell them? Let these insights guide what you say.

  • Say you, I and we
    Create a sense of direct dialogue by talking in the first and second person: you, your, yours, we, our, ours, us, I, my and mine.

  • Create a shared picture
    Engage the senses by telling stories, and by using visual words and phrases, while avoiding cliché.

  • Start conversations
    Write as you’d speak, building rapport by asking questions and using phrases that encourage a response. Use contractions to imply speaking, while giving sentences more pace and urgency.

Expert

We know our stuff and we have a point of view. We believe an expert is one who can make specialist knowledge useful to others. So we’re always asking: can this be made simpler? It comes through in language that’s clear, precise and evidence-based. We get straight to the point and refuse to hide behind jargon.

  • Get to the point
    Give the benefit of your expertise upfront by starting with your conclusion.

  • Show, don't tell
    Don’t just tell your reader what to think: show them with concrete facts and stories that give the proof.

  • Tell it straight
    Use everyday language, avoid unnecessary jargon and spell out abbreviations.

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