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Content principles

Start with user needs

Write in a way that suits the situation. Ask yourself: Who is going to read this? What do they need to know? How might they be feeling?

Help people find the information they need quickly and easily. Guide them through the process.

Do the hard work to make it simple

Use plain language and simple sentences.

Choose clarity over cleverness.

Write for everyone

Respect the complexity of our users’ experiences.

Be willing to be surprised about who’s reading your work.

Build trust

Talk like a person.

Tell the truth.

Use positive language and concrete examples.

Start small and iterate

Make sure your content works for users. Don’t be afraid to scrap what’s there and start over.

Write a draft, test it out, gather feedback, and keep refining.


We drew from multiple sources to develop this. Thanks to GDS, MailChimp, and Facebook for inspiration.

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18F Content Guide is a product of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services, and is managed by 18F.

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