Getting content into plain English isn't an art, it's a process.
The Defra content team makes sure that guidance meet GOV.UK standards - meaning that it meets the needs of the user, not government, and that it's in plain English. We work in a way that makes sure that content is prioritised, published in good time, is accurate and meets government standards for language and style.
Involving the content team early on in planning guidance is essential to creating good digital content.
Contacting the team
Anyone looking to request new content needs to explain their proposal to the team - in particular who needs the guidance, why government needs to publish this and by when.
In particular we review the user needs to make sure that the content has an audience - if it doesn't then we'll reject it.
Once we approve the request we work with teams to agree a plan and timetable for creating the guidance. Policy experts and subject matter experts don’t write the content. Dedicated digital content designers draft the text.
Before content goes live it's reviewed for style and accuracy.
After we write the content we send a draft for the subject-matter expert to check it's accurate (known as fact check). We give a timeframe for when we expect the content back. If lawyers or other subject-matter experts need to review the content we'll ask that they’re consulted from the start as this makes the process quicker.
During fact check we ask the experts to state what's wrong and say what's needed to fix it. They comment purely on the facts and not on the style.
Once we get the content back from fact check we'll make the recommended factual changes, and we can't accept changes that conflict with the GOV.UK styleguide. If we query the amends or they lead to significant changes by us (for example the responses make us rethink sections) we'll send it back for another review.
Publishing the content
Once this is done we then ask for approval - not an extra fact check but a final step so that the senior official responsible for the guidance can confirm it's good to go.
We'll confirm any publishing dates.
After the content's live
Once the content is live we'll monitor its performance - for example to see how many users visit the page and what they do after reading.
Subject-matter experts need to contact us if the page needs updating - if it's a significant change (such as adding a new section, or a new law applies) then that means raising a new request, and the process starts again.