Maidstone Digital Service
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Formats and punctuation


Avoid ‘camel case’ for example ‘Apply Or Remove A Council Tax Discount’. The shapes of the words make this difficult to read and not the shapes people have learned when reading.

Never use all caps as this gives the idea that the text is ‘shouting’ at them. Do not use title case.

Lists and bullet points

You can use bullet points to make text easier to read. Make sure that:

  • you always use a lead-in line
  • the bullets make sense running on from the lead-in line
  • you use lower case at the start of the bullet
  • you do not use more than one sentence per bullet point - use commas or dashes to expand on an item
  • you do not put ‘or’ or ‘and’ after the bullets
  • you do not make the whole bullet a link if it’s a long phrase
  • you do not put a semicolon at the end of a bullet
  • there is no full stop after the last bullet point
  • bullets should normally form a complete sentence following from the lead text. But it’s sometimes necessary to add a short phrase to clarify whether all or some of the points apply. For example, ‘You can only register a pension scheme that is one of the following:’
  • they need to be in order of popularity where applicable - for example a list of benefits

Lists with a lead-in line

Use a lead-in line with a colon. The bullets should make sense running on from the lead-in line. In effect, the list is one continuous sentence. Such as:

‘You might not have to pay Council Tax if you are:

  • 18 or 19 years old and in education on 30 April
  • an apprentice
  • an apprenticeship trainee under 25’

Numbered lists

To guide people through a process. Each point starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop, without a lead-in line.


This should not be used to emphasise text, but can be used to explain to a user what to fill it. Such as ‘Select continue’.


Should not be used as users may think that this is a link.


Use single quotes:

  • in headlines
  • for unusual terms
  • when referring to words
  • when referring to publications
  • when referring to notifications such as emails or alerts

Use double quotes in body text for direct quotations.

‘Please see our ‘guide to writing well’
‘The mayor of Maidstone has suggested that “Maidstone is an up-and-coming place”

Text alignment

Left-align all content, including headers


We use contractions like you'll, we'll, you're and what's. Often contractions make content friendlier and easier to read.

Do not use negative contractions like can't and don't. When you’re telling users not to do something, use ‘Do not’ rather than ‘Don't’.

Avoid should've, could've, would've and they've. They can be hard to read.

Full stops

Do not use full stops in headings, buttons or action links.

‘Exceptional hardship payments.’, ‘Register.’


  • used in multi word short URLs if there are more than two words, ideally short URLs should just be one word:  /discounts or /discounts-and-exemptions not /discountsandexemptions as this makes it difficult to read
  • check if the word does require a hyphen using a search.
  • try to limit the use as they can be seen as confusing. For example, a little used-car is different from a little-used car

Paragraphs and sentences

Sentences no more than 25 words where possible. Recommended paragraph lengths are no more than three to eight sentences. They should never be longer than 250 words.

Abbreviations and initialisms

  • explain it in the first instance put the shortened version in brackets then use the shortened version. Such as: Houses of multiple occupancy (HMO)
  • 'eg' can sometimes be read aloud as ‘egg’ by screen reading software. Instead use ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’ or ‘including’ - whichever works best in the specific context
  • 'etc' can usually be avoided. Try using ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’ or ‘including’. Never use etc at the end of a list starting with these words.
  • 'ie' - used to clarify a sentence - is not always well understood. Try (re)writing sentences to avoid the need to use it. If that is not possible, use an alternative such as ‘meaning’ or ‘that is’


Use (round brackets), not [square brackets]. The only acceptable use of square brackets is for explanatory notes in reported speech:

“Thank you [Foreign Minister] Mr Smith.”

Do not use round brackets to refer to something that could either be singular or plural, like ‘Check which document(s) you need to send to DVLA.’ Always use the plural instead, as this will cover each possibility: ‘Check which documents you need to send to DVLA.’


Do not use ampersands unless it is in a logo and is easier to read, some people may not understand the symbol.

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