The MindWell audience is potentially anyone in Leeds who needs information to support their mental health or the mental health of someone they care about. This includes people who do not have English as their first language and people with health conditions or impairments.
Our content needs to communicate in a way that most people will understand.
Guidance given by the Plain English Campaign helps us write more clearly and effectively for our audience.
Using simple, commonly used, everyday English is more accessible and creates a friendly informal style. A list of words to avoid and their alternatives is given here:
|✔ about||X regarding|
|✔ about||X approximately|
|✔ tell||X advise|
|✔ use||X utilise|
|✔ next to||X adjacent|
|✔ help||X assist|
|✔ extra||X additional|
|✔ before||X prior to|
|✔ if||X in the event of|
|✔ start||X commence|
|✔ make sure||X ensure|
|✔ end||X terminate|
|✔ so||X consequently|
|✔ more than||X in excess of|
|✔ for||X in respect of|
|✔ details||X particulars|
|✔ a year||X per annum|
|✔ people||X persons|
|✔ if you want||X should you wish|
|✔ask for||X seek|
|✔call or phone||X ring, dial or telephone|
|✔ “for a long time” or |
“does not go away”
|✔ for example, such as, like, including||X eg|
|✔ that is or that means||X ie|
|✔ and so on||X etc|
We speak in everyday English but slang, which may not be understood by all of our audience, should be avoided:
✔ I feel like I can’t cope
X I feel rubbish
Avoid Latin, foreign language phrases and legal terms. GOV.UK gives more guidance about words to avoid.
Sentences should be kept short (ideally a maximum 25 words) but do not all need to be the same length. Mix short sentences with longer ones.
“You” and “we”
Using the terms ‘you’ and ‘we’ feels more conversational and personal and helps to establish a relationship with the site user. We write as if we’re talking to the user one-to-one.
Lists and bullets
Bullet points can be used to split up chunks of information. We try to keep to a maximum of 6 items of roughly the same size.
1. Lists with a lead-in line
The lead-in line finishes with a colon and each bullet makes sense running on from the lead-in line. Bullet points start in lower case and end with no punctuation (including the last point). Avoid ending bullets with “and” and “or”.
MindWell provides access to:
- clear information about support and services available in Leeds
- help for what to do in a crisis or mental health emergency
- general information about a range of common mental health problems
- self-help tools and materials, online and mobile apps
- resources for GPs and other professionals
2. Full sentence lists
Bullet points are full sentences starting with capital letters and ending in full stops. These lists do not have a lead-in line.
- Keep to a regular routine, getting up and going to bed at the same time.
- Eat a healthy well-balanced diet.
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
- Get outside for some sunlight and exercise.
3. Numbered lists
These are helpful to guide people through a process. Each bullet starts with a capital and ends with full stops. These lists do not have a lead-in line.
How to slow your breathing down
1. Sit comfortably in a chair if possible.
2. Put your feet flat on the floor.
3. Shoulders down and jaw loose. Back straight.
4. Loosen clothes around your stomach area if convenient.
5. Breathe in through your nose rather than your mouth.
6. Breathe in to count of two, hold for a second and then breathe out to count of four. Breathe out smoothly and steadily.
7. Repeat twice and then relax and carry on with whatever you were doing.
Using the active voice makes sentences much clearer, punchier and straight-forward.
In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action, for example:
✔ I (subject) wrote (verb) this guide (object).
✔ You (subject) may need (verb) help (object).
In a passive sentence, you put the action before the subject, for example:
X The guide (object) was written (verb) by me (subject).
X Help (object) might be needed (verb) by you (subject).
As you can see by using the passive verb, in these examples, extra words (‘was’ and ‘by’) need to be used making the sentences very wordy and formal.
Of course there may be a few occasions when the passive verb may be more appropriate, for example, when you cannot or do not want to say who the doer is or when it just sounds better, for example:
✔ A support group has been set up in Bramley.
The phrases ‘you should…’ or ‘would you mind…’ are commonly used when giving instructions. We use active commands instead. They are the fastest and the most direct way of giving someone an instruction, for example:
✔ Give us a call
✔ Join a group
✔ Contact us
A nominalisation is a name given to something that isn’t a physical object or being, such as an emotion or process. Normalisations are formed from verbs:
✔ discuss X discussion
✔ complete X completion
✔ introduce X introduction
Like using the passive voice, too many normalisations can make sentences wordy and sound formal and bureaucratic:
X The group had a discussion about support available in Leeds.
✔ The group discussed support available in Leeds.
Jargon isn’t just strings of mysterious letters like IAPT or BAME, it’s any word or phrase with a specialised meaning within mental health and healthcare services.
If you’ve been involved in mental health services for a while, it’s easy to forget a time when ‘social prescribing’ or ‘care pathways’ meant very little to you.
It’s likely that many users of MindWell will have limited or no familiarity with such jargon. In order to make meanings clear for all our users it’s important to avoid confusing terms and explain any jargon we do use.
While the main sections of the site have a broad audience the Professionals section of MindWell provides information for a specialist audience of GPs and other professionals. Therefore it’s appropriate to use jargon and vocabulary commonly used by this audience within this section.
Clichés and figurative language
Clichés are phrases or sayings which have become so overused that they have lost any real meaning. Avoid phrases such as:
X going forward
X thinking outside the box
X elephant in the room
X pushing the envelope
X blue-sky thinking
X a perfect storm
Figurative language (such as metaphors and similes) uses abstract ideas to convey a particular meaning and is often used in literature. It can cause confusion for people who do not have English as their first language or people with learning disabilities. We avoid phrases which cannot be understood literally such as:
X clear as mud
X raining cats and dogs
We do not use loss as a euphemism for death unless we are talking about feelings of loss or grieving. We say ‘died’ instead of ‘passed away’ or ‘deceased’.
Abbreviations and acronyms
If using an acronym, we spell it out in full the first time, with the abbreviation in brackets afterwards. Like this:
✔ The largest provider is Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service (LMWS).
You can use the shortened version from that point on, safe in the knowledge that no one’s feeling lost:
✔ LMWS supports people aged 17 and over with common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks and stress.
Do not use full stops in abbreviations, or spaces between initials, for example:
X I.A.P.T or I A P T
We use ‘and’ rather than ‘&’ unless it is part of a name eg A&E.