GOV.AU Content Guide Terms and phrases

Use consistent terms and phrases to help users find what they need.

Abbreviations

Only use abbreviations of general terms if the abbreviation is the clearer and more common form.

See also guidance on abbreviating numbers and measures.

Example of

abbreviations

  • Ms — instead of Miss/Mistress or Mrs/Misses
  • Mr — instead of Mister
  • Pty Ltd — instead of Proprietary Limited

Honours, awards and distinctions

Abbreviate honours, awards and distinctions without full stops.

Example of

abbreviating honours, awards and distinctions

  • AO (Officer of the Order of Australia)
  • OM (Member of the Order of Merit)
  • BA (Bachelor of Arts)
  • DipEd (Diploma of Education)
  • PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Accessibility

Use preferred accessibility terms.

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States and territories

Use the names of states and territories in full.

Use contractions and acronyms if space is limited (for example, a table) or to avoid lengthy repetitions.

Use alphabetical order by default. There may be some cases when ordering by another factor, like population size, might be better for the user.

Example of

writing the names of states and territories

  • Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
  • New South Wales (NSW)
  • Northern Territory (NT)
  • Queensland (Qld)
  • South Australia (SA)
  • Tasmania (Tas.)
  • Victoria (Vic.)
  • Western Australia (WA)

State and territory governments

Capitalise the formal state or territory government title only.

Example of

referring to state and territory governments

  • ACT Government
  • Government of South Australia
  • Government of Victoria
  • Government of Western Australia
  • NSW Government
  • Northern Territory Government
  • Queensland Government
  • Tasmanian Government
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Acronyms

Write out the full name first before you introduce the acronym.

Example of

acronyms

Welcome to the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The DTA works to make public services clear, simple and fast.

You don’t need to spell out acronyms that are well known to an Australian audience. For example, NSW or ABC.

If you are writing for an international audience spell it out once and then use the acronym.

Most acronyms for companies or organisations are upper case, with the exception of Anzac.

Don’t use full stops in acronyms.

Example of

not using full stops in acronyms

ATM — not A.T.M.

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Australian Government

Use ‘Australian Government’ when talking about the national government of Australia. Don’t use ‘Government’, ‘Commonwealth Government’ or ‘federal government’.

Only use the ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ when talking about the legal entity established by the Constitution.

Only capitalise ‘government’, ‘group’, ‘parliament’, ‘state’ and ‘territory’ in a formal title.

Also see guidance on capitalising legislation and government publications.

Example of

referring to the Australian Government

The Australian Government welcomed the delegates.

The delegates were pleased that the government had welcomed them.

When referring to the Australian Government as part of a group of governments, set it apart.

Example of

referring to the Australian Government as part of a group of government

Like this:

Australian Government and state and territory governments.

Not this:

Australian and state and territory governments.

Legislation, acts and other publications

Use title case for titles of publications, policies, programs, books, films, photographs, TV programs, paintings, songs and albums.

Capitalise the principal words only. Exceptions are when the title begins with a, for, on, to and so on.

Example of

different kinds of titles

Government terms

Example of

other government terms

  • the Cabinet
  • the Treasury
  • Parliament House — use ‘the House’ when referring to either parliamentary chamber
  • the Budget, budget provisions, the budgetary process, successive budgets
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Dictionaries

Use the most recent edition of the Macquarie Dictionary, and the first option listed.

Set your spell checker to Australian English.

If you are using Microsoft Word, set it to English UK rather than American English.

Use the spelling organisations use for their own names.

Example of

using US spelling for organisations

World Health Organization

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Digital terms

Sign in versus log in

Consider using ‘sign in’ and ‘sign out’ (note, no hyphen) instead of ‘log in’ or ‘log out’ in text, links and buttons.

‘Sign in’ seems to be becoming a more recognisable call to action than ‘log in’. But you should test this with the user.

Guidance on buttons and labels is available in the DTA Design Guide.

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Gender

Use gender-neutral terms and avoid gendered pronouns.

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Government departments

Write the government department’s name in full on first mention and then as ‘the department’.

Use first-person pronouns through the rest of the text: we, us.

Example of

referring to a government departments

The Department for Communication and the Arts is the Australian Government’s leading adviser on communications.

The department is based in Canberra.

We are responsible for …

When naming other departments, use the name in full followed by the acronym in brackets.

Example of

using department acronyms

We worked closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

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Indigenous

Use preferred First Australian terms instead of Indigenous.

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Ministers, senators and MPs

Refer to ministers in the Australian Government by their full title in the first instance, and then as the Minister.

Example of

referring to Australian Government ministers

The Honourable Minister for Education, Jane Bloggs, opened the school. The Minister left after morning tea.

Refer to senators by their full title in the first instance, and then by ‘Senator’ and their surname.

Example of

referring to senators

If the senator is serving as a minister:

Senator the Honourable Jane Bloggs, Minister for Education, opened the school. Senator Bloggs left after morning tea.

If the senator has never been a minister:

Senator Jane Bloggs opened the school. Senator Bloggs left after morning tea.

For members of parliament who have never been ministers, refer to them by their full title in the first instance, and then by using Mr or Ms and their surname.

Example of

referring to members of parliament

Ms Jane Bloggs MP visited the school. Ms Bloggs left after morning tea.

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Plain English terms

See plain English guidance.

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Preferred spellings

Adviser

Use adviser — not advisor.

Example of

using adviser

We are an adviser to government.

Effect and affect

‘Effect’ is a generally a noun. ‘Affect’ is a verb.

Example of

effect and affect

The training has had an effect on performance. The training has started to affect the team’s performance.

Focused

Use focused — not focussed.

Example of

focused

We are focused on user needs.

Program

Use program — not programme.

Use programme if it is part of a proper noun, for example the title of an existing program or legislation.

New programs should use the ‘program’ spelling.

Example of

using program

  • program of events
  • South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations 1996
  • Corrosion Prevention and Control Program

User-centred design

Hyphenate user-centred design.

Example of

writing user-centred design in a sentence

Our focus is user-centred design.

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