Writing and language
Writing style guide
The City of Winnipeg Writing Style Guide is a resource for City of Winnipeg (CW) employees when drafting written materials. The guide defines and explains the writing guidelines for all internal and public-facing materials to ensure consistency across the organization. The original guide was developed by the Water and Waste Department’s Communication Services team and subsequently updated for use organization-wide.
Writing for the web
Always use plain language that helps users find what they need, identify and understand what they’ve found, and understand what to do next. Web writing should be actionable, findable, and shareable.
- Use familiar language. Using language familiar to your users helps them understand what’s written.
- Chunk your content. ‘Chunking’ refers to breaking related content into short, scannable, and manageable groups.
- Put important information first. Always start with the content that’s most important before providing additional details.
- Be concise. In most cases, shorter is better. Always try to eliminate all unnecessary words.
Writing in navigation
The above guidelines apply to navigation labels, too. In addition:
- Avoid using extraneous or unrelated terms in menu labels. Examples include:
- Use ‘About’ or ‘Contact’ as opposed to ‘About us’ or ‘Contact us’ in scenarios where context is obvious to the user.
- In cases where departmental ‘About’ or ‘Contact’ menu items appear along with global ‘About’ or ‘Contact’ items, use the shortest label possible without confusing the user. In most cases, this could be ‘About the department’ or ‘About Corporate Finance’ instead of ‘About the Corporate Finance Department.’ This decision depends on the surrounding content, pathway, and how clear the specific context is.
- Put the tasks which are most important to users first in the menu.
- The Hemingway app helps you write with power and clarity by highlighting adverbs, passive voice, and dull, complicated words.
- Tips on Writing for Web Accessibility from W3C includes basic considerations to help you get started writing web content that is more accessible to people with disabilities.
Working with multiple languages
Our citizens speak a wide variety of languages and the City has requirements for communicating in English and French in the following circumstances:
- If the initiative is related specifically to the Riel District, and/or
- If the initiative has citywide implications
- For guidance on providing services in both official languages, contact French Language Services at City-FR@winnipeg.ca
These guidelines should be followed when working with multiple languages:
- Always translate and optimize content before the page or application is designed. It’s important to design and build around content instead of fitting content within something that’s already been designed.
- Avoiding mixing multiple languages on a single page or screen.
- Check all links, navigation and error messages to ensure they’re in the target language.
- Ensure the page defines the target language in the code. This helps browsers and search engines determine the language of the page.