Termium is the best source for translations of key terms and organization names, particularly those used by the federal government. Developed by the Translation Bureau, Termium is the most extensive source of equivalents of its kind in Canada.
Use plain language, suitable for someone in grade 8 to understand, when writing and editing Policy Horizons reports, publications, blogs, or other material. Consult these useful readability guidelines.
Keep sentences short, clear, and easy to understand. Separate ideas and concepts into different sentences whenever possible.
Avoid using acronyms and initialisms unnecessarily.
For each chapter of a document, write out the full term the first time it appears, followed by the acronym/initialism in parentheses.
Do not use an acronym/initialism in a title, subtitle, or heading.
Provide an acronym/initialism only if the term appears more than once in your text.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Internet of Things (IoT)
Do not use a period after each letter in acronyms and initialisms:
The short form of a term is often easier for the reader to understand than an abbreviation that isn’t widely known.
To pluralize most acronyms, simply add an “s”.
ADMs, NGOs, MOUs
Use periods in U.S. when abbreviating United States. This initialism is how the U.S. government refers to itself.
Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation, U.S. governors
When referring to the United States, regardless of whether you use the full name or the acronym, always use a singular verb, because the term designates a single country (rather than a collection of states).
The United States is home to several species of birds.
Do not use periods in UK. This initialism is how the UK government refers to itself. For example:
Northern Ireland is part of the UK.
In general writing, you can use the abbreviations NE, NW, SE, and SW to denote town and city division, but you should always spell out the words north, south, east, and west.
Use between two independent clauses that are too closely related to be separated by a period, or to separate elements in a complex series.
We can go to the museum to do some research; Mondays are pretty quiet there.
I need the weather statistics for the following cities: London, England; London, Ontario; Paris, France; Paris, Ontario; Perth, Scotland; Perth, Ontario.
Point-form lists make it easier for the reader to understand how the elements are related. Grammar and syntax determine the internal capitalization and punctuation of the initial letters of items in lists. It is more important for lists to be logically understandable and syntactically consistent than to look alike.
If the lead-in to a list is syntactically related to the points that follow, as in this list,
do not capitalize the first words of items within the list, and
except for the bullets or dashes, punctuate as if the entire sentence was not in point form.
Items in lists are sometimes capitalized. This list illustrates one possible set of conditions.
It consists of complete sentences, which do not depend on the lead-in sentence fragment and which end with a period.
It contains points that are easier to understand separately than together.
Incomplete sentences or single words entered as points in lists are normally lower-cased:
E.g.Four issues are related to the economics of healthy housing:
viability for the construction industry
Note that there is no period at the end of the list.
Use the serial (or Oxford) comma. Place a comma before the “and” in a list of more than two items:
…the SSHRC, CIHR, and NSERC.
The em dash (—) sets off a word or phrase that interrupts the flow of a sentence, like an example or clarification. There is no space before or after an em dash.
The products—the news release, speech, and media lines—still require editing.
The en dash (–) joins numbers, like a span of page numbers, ages, or years. There is no space before or after an en dash (unless it is used as a graphic element).
Place commas and periods within closing quotation marks, whether or not they were included in the original material:
In keeping with President Fox’s notion of “NAFTA-plus,” Ambassador de Madero called for a “shared commitment to North America’s future.”
Place colons and semicolons outside quotation marks:
Louis rushed to the North Pod when he heard the screams of “help, help”; unfortunately, he said, it was “too late”: the files were deleted.
Our goal is consistency, both with our overall works, and with Government of Canada websites and resources. The recommended spelling authority is a reliable Canadian dictionary, such as the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. When in doubt, please verify. Use the following spellings:
ad hoc (no italic) aging analyze
benefited, benefiting (one “t”) break-up
centre cooperate, cooperation coordinate, coordination counsellor (someone who advises or counsels) councillor (someone who belongs to a council) customs union (with an s)
focusing, focussed fora (plural of forum) freshwater (one word)
Citations of content shared through social media can usually be limited to the text (as in the “Text” example below). Add a more formal citation in “Notes” if desired.
Barack Obama expressed concern about extreme weather events in Australia. “The catastrophic fires in Australia are the latest example of the very real and very urgent consequences of climate change,” (@BarackObama, January 9, 2020).
Justin Trudeau (@justinpjtrudeau), “Great to have the team back in Ottawa – here’s to another year of hope and hard work!”, Instagram photo, January 22, 2020, https://www.instagram.com/p/B7pbkgGANeJ/.
Bob Dylan, “’Blood on the Tracks’ was released on this day 45 years ago. Shop the Anniversary Collection”, Facebook, January 20, 2020, http://bit.ly/38gazXi.
When writing weak signals or other content, please use proper attribution for source material. Please use quotation marks when directly quoting from a source, and attribute it to its owner. This will ensure that our material looks professional not only in its content, but in that it respects other people’s work.
Use plain language; avoid technical jargon and slang.
Communicate one central idea/takeaway per section.
Make the content easy to read. You may need to organize your thoughts to build on complexity.
Title/Headline: Make it simple and concise. Alternatively, you can use a creative or catchy title to entice your reader to continue reading, as long as it’s clear and does not confuse the flow of the document.
If your point can’t be understood by someone in the 8th grade, explain it.
Be clear with your calls to action.
If there’s a central takeaway in your writing (“increased driving results in higher rates of obesity”), repeat the point/argument in several ways throughout the document to increase recall and keep your user thinking about what they’ve read.
Add (or propose) images that help your reader recall the content by tying them to the topic.
A good blog is informative, friendly, and opinionated. It should tell the reader something concrete. The guidelines above (Writing for a general audience) apply to blogs, in addition to the following guidelines:
Try to keep your blog posts to no more than 300 words, especially as almost half of our readers are on mobile platforms.
When possible, write in the first person.
Use plain language and a conversational style. Avoid technical jargon and slang. If you must use technical terms, define them.
Link the content in the body; very few people scroll to the bottom for more links and sources.
Depending on the topic, don’t be afraid to write about feelings; people relate to vulnerability and the acknowledgement of difficulty, not perfection.
Have a conclusion: Wrap up the article with a call to action, your “a-ha moment”, or a question that will keep your user thinking about what they’ve just read.
Clarity and consistency
The most important guideline to follow is consistency. Be consistent in the writing styles you choose to implement in your writing to create a coherently written piece. Remember to write for your audience.