Our writing principles

Our writing principles have been developed to ensure our content is clear, meaningful and trustworthy to all our users.

1. Write clearly and concisely

Content we write for the Ethnicity facts and figures website and GOV.UK should:

  • meet user needs
  • be clear and concise
  • be written in plain English
  • be easy for everyone to understand, even complex statistical ideas
  • be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities or who use assistive technologies like screen readers
  • follow our guidelines on writing about ethnicity and our style guide A to Z

GOV.UK has guidance on writing well.

2. Be impartial and avoid judgemental language

We do not explain ethnic disparities shown in the data. We simply present the data in a way that can be understood by the widest possible audience.

We avoid judgemental words like ‘only’, ‘best’ and ‘worst’ and let the facts speak for themselves.

This is neutral:

in every ethnic group, girls were more likely to achieve A* to C in English and Maths GCSE than boys - 67% of girls did so, compared with 59% of boys

This is judgemental:

in every ethnic group, girls did better in their English and Maths GCSE than boys – 67% of girls achieved grades A* to C, compared with only 59% of boys

We refer to ethnic disparities rather than ethnic discrimination. This is because differences in outcomes between ethnic groups aren’t always the result of discrimination.

3. Explain if figures aren’t reliable

Charts and tables can appear to show findings which, for statistical reasons, aren’t reliable or meaningful. Ignoring them leaves readers confused or even suspicious.

We explain if findings aren’t reliable or meaningful.

For example:

although the data shows rises or falls in visits for some ethnic groups, these figures may not represent the wider population because of the small number of people surveyed

4. Define terms

We include definitions of terms we think readers may not know. We do this the first time we use the term.

For example:

22% of working age people (people aged 16 to 64) were economically inactive in 2018, which means they were out of work and not looking for a job
in the academic year 2017 to 2018, the overall absence rate (school sessions missed due to authorised and unauthorised absence) was 4.8%

5. Don’t overload users with numbers

We don’t reference too many figures in one sentence. This is because it makes users work harder to understand the information. The Nielson Norman Group have done research into how users process information.

For example:

4.6 million (20%) of the 23 million households in England rented their home from a private landlord in the 2 years from 2016 to 2018

This could be rewritten as:

20% of households in England rented their home from a private landlord in the two financial years to 2018

We minimise the number of figures in one sentence.

We’re also consistent in the way we present figures. For example, we use fractions and percentages, but not both in the same measure.

6. Avoid ambiguity

We avoid ambiguity, particularly when comparing ethnic groups.

For example, the phrase ‘across all ethnic groups’ can mean ‘in every ethnic group’ or ‘in total’.

We say instead ‘in every ethnic group’ if a finding applies to every ethnic group.

For example:

between 2004 and 2018, the employment rate increased in every ethnic group

7. Help us stay up to date

Language usage and acceptability change over time. We want to make sure our content reflects those changes. Contact us at ethnicity@cabinetoffice.gov.uk with your thoughts and research.