Writing policy content for the web

Last updated: September 7, 2021

Web content is not a legal document, but often reflects legislation and policy. While all content needs to be accurate, it should not use the same words as the legislation. Legal and policy language is difficult for many people to understand. It also creates barriers to accessing services people need.

When people visit websites they're looking for answers, not information. 

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Policy content must be accessible

Even for policy experts, it can be hard to read and understand legal content. Avoid making people struggle to understand what you're saying.

We have an obligation to accurately represent policy and legislation. We also have an obligation to make sure content is accessible and written in plain language. New or refreshed websites must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 (AA).

Use words people understand

Legal and policy content can and should be written in plain language.

Write like you’re talking to your reader one-on-one. It helps them understand complex topics so they can easily access services.

Readers who understand web content are less likely to contact staff for explanations. This frees up time and resources for both readers and staff members.


Say only what you need to

Instead of writing content to match legal language, write in plain language. Focus on only what your audience needs to know.

Before:

In response to client feedback, hiring managers are no longer required to submit competition documentation to the BC Public Service Agency to confirm a hire. Eliminating the requirement to submit competition documentation to complete a hire does not remove the requirement for hiring managers to retain competition documentation. Hiring managers are still responsible for documenting and retaining all competition files, as they currently do, for a minimum of two years.

After: 

Hiring managers must keep competition files for at least two years. They don't need to submit them to the BC Public Service Agency.

 

Disclaimers

Policy web content is a summary, not a legal interpretation. Provide a link to legislation and legal information for people who want to know more.

This content is a summary of the PHO order – Gatherings and Events (PDF) document. It is not legal advice and does not provide an interpretation of the law. In the event of any conflict or difference between this webpage and the order, the order is correct and legal and must be followed. 

Navigating policy conversations

Use the following resources for web writers and teams to help navigate discussions with program areas and approvers:

  • Encourage executive members to be advocates for your work
  • Take the Plain Language Course
  • Show how plain language frees up time and resources for staff
  • Talk to your readers and conduct design research to learn what they need