Writing for the Society
Only when everyone understands the problem can change really happen – what and how we say something has never been more important
Writing for our communications – some pointers
- Be bold – use bold language that confidently talks about our work and the change we are making happen. We transform. We change. We do. We don’t need to be modest about our achievements or our ambitions.
- Be inclusive. Give your writing a more personal, human touch by using ‘we’ ‘you’, ‘us’ and ‘our’. This helps us sound like real people rather than a remote, impersonal organisation.
- Keep sentences short. Aim to get to the point quickly and don’t overload your sentences with too many thoughts. A useful guide is around 25 words per sentence, around four sentences per paragraph, and around six to eight words per headline. This helps create a clear narrative that people can easily navigate and helps get your message across too.
- Use headings, subheading and bullets. Think about how people access and read information today. Reading is rarely an uninterrupted, linear process. People look for the headline, the first few words, a caption or a subheading. Make it easy for them by using short, engaging headlines and subheadings. Use pull-out quotes or captions to make clear what comes next.
- Be specific – try to avoid writing in vague, general terms. Be specific and illustrate what you say with examples, case studies and real life stories where you can. This all helps show the change we create.
- Use facts and figures. This isn’t always necessary or appropriate but where we have facts or statistics to back up, evidence or illustrate what we’re writing, use them.
- Read your writing out loud. Does it sound a bit stiff? If you’re tripping over your words or feel unnatural saying it, the tone isn’t quite right.
- Use everyday English where possible. Try to avoid formal, ‘corporate speak’ and use conversational, natural language instead. This doesn’t just sound more human – it’s easier to understand too. Sometimes we need to use medical terminology. When we do, think about the audience and whether all of them will understand it. If not everyone will be familiar with the term, include a short, plain English definition of it. Once you’ve done that, you can revert to using the medical term on its own.
Swap formal words for everyday words:
- Additional – extra
- Advise – tell
- Complete – fill in
- Comply with – keep to
- Consequently – so
- Ensure – make sure
- Forward – send
- Furthermore – also, as well
- However – but
- In excess of – more than
- In the event of – if
- Obtain – get
- On receipt – when we / you get
- On request – if you ask
- Particulars – details
- Prior to – before
- Regarding – about
- Should you wish – if you want
- Thus – so
- Whilst – while
Sometimes we need to use medical terminology. When we do, think about the audience and whether all of them will understand it. If not everyone will be familiar with the term, include a short, plain English definition of it. Once you’ve done that, you can revert to using the medical term on its own.
A note on grammar and spelling
Is it healthcare or health care?
In UK English, healthcare is always written as one word. That means we use ‘healthcare practitioner’ not ‘health care practitioner’ or “we’re here for everyone working in healthcare”
We only ever capitalise:
- Proper nouns (people’s names, towns and cities, countries, organisations)
- Nationalities, languages and religions
- Days of the week and months of the year
- Headlines and subheads are always sentence case
We use contractions (‘you’re’, ‘we’re’). Some contractions like ‘should’ve’ and ‘could’ve’, are a bit too colloquial (and clumsy) – avoid these. It’s fine to mix contractions and full versions. This mostly depends on the rhythm you want in your writing, and what you want to emphasise.
We use the Guardian style guide as our reference. Take a look there if you have any specific questions that are not covered in these or the brand voice guidelines.
Abbreviations and acronyms
If there’s a chance your reader won’t recognise an abbreviation or acronym, spell it out the first time you mention it. Then use the short version for all other references.
Spell out a number when it begins a sentence. Otherwise, use the numeral. This includes ordinals.
- Ten new employees started on Monday, and 12 start next week.
- Sometimes it feels odd to use the numeral. If it’s an expression that typically uses spelled-out numbers, leave them that way.
- That is a third-party integration.
- Numbers over 3 digits get commas 999, 1,000, 150,000
- Write out big numbers in full eg one million. But feel free to abbreviate them if there are space restraints, as in a tweet or a chart: 1k, 150k.
Generally, spell out the day of the week and the month. Abbreviate only if space is an issue within the piece you’re producing.
- Monday 24 January 2020
For events and training, we use the 24 hour clock to make sure the start and end times are clear wherever people are in the world.
- 09.30 – 14.00
- 15.00 – 17.00
A reminder on the correct use of our name
We don’t use acronyms for our name. We are the Society of Tissue Viability NOT SoTV – that’s a television production company established by Graham Norton. We always avoid using acronyms as they’re not good for clear communications, they’re not memorable, they don’t help build our brand name and they can cause issues for people with dyslexia. If you need to use a short-hand version, please always use our name, the Society of Tissue Viability in full for the first mention and thereafter you may refer to us as the Society.