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

When we write for the Ethnicity facts and figures website and GOV.UK, it 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 how to write well.

2. Be impartial and avoid judgemental language

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

We avoid judgemental words like 'only', 'best' and 'worst'.

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

This is neutral:

in every ethnic group, girls (67%) were more likely to achieve A* to C in English and Maths GCSE than boys (59%)

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

3. Explain if figures are unreliable

Charts and tables can appear to show findings which, for statistical reasons, are unreliable. Ignoring them leaves readers confused or even suspicious.

We explain if findings are unreliable.

For example:

for higher honours, the percentage of recipients from ethnic minorities is often based on small numbers – this makes it difficult to make reliable generalisations about changes over time

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 2 years to March 2019, an average of 17% of households in England lived in a home with no modern facilities, no effective insulation or heating, or in a state of disrepair (a ‘non-decent home’)

5. Don’t overload users with numbers

We don’t reference too many figures in one sentence. This is because it makes it harder for people 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 2 years to March 2018

We minimise the number of figures used in one sentence.

We are consistent in the way we present figures – for example, we usually use percentages (20%), not fractions (one-fifth) or other alternatives ('one in five').

6. Avoid ambiguity

We avoid ambiguity, especially when comparing ethnic groups.

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

Instead, we say ‘in every ethnic group’ if a finding applies to every ethnic group. We refer to ‘all other ethnic groups combined’ if data is shown for 2 ethnic groups – White, and all other groups combined.

For example:

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

77% of White people were employed, compared with 65% of people from all other ethnic groups combined

7. Help us stay up to date

We want to make sure our content reflects changes in language usage and acceptability over time.

Contact the Cabinet Office with your feedback.