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Digital Writing Style Guide

"Good writing does not come from verbiage but from words."
Jeff Lindsay, Playwright.

 

Whether we're creating a product page, a digital marketing campaign or a CTA button, we write high-quality copy. Our writing is simple, clear and helpful across all our platforms and brands.  

Writing for digital

What works well on paper doesn't necessarilty work well online. Here's what you should know when writing for digital.

Editorial style

Get familiar with the personality of each of our brands.  

Westpac (PDF 10MB)

St George (PDF 18MB)

Bank of Melbourne (PDF 36MB)

Bank SA (PDF 4MB) .  

SEO

SEO is a cost-effective way to increase the chances of your content displaying highly in search engine results pages (SERP). Here are the basics.

The A-Z

A quick and easy way to see how we write certain things.  

 

 

Rule Example
Use figures (18) rather than words (eighteen)
 
When referring to one person use 'X years old'
The woman is 18 years old.
When referring to a group use 'X year olds' We spoke to a group of 18 year olds.
When writing age ranges always use numbers never words

5-10 year olds

A group of 45 to 50 year olds

The 18-40 age group

School 'Years' - capitalise the Y
Year 2

 

   
   

This is a punctuation mark to indicate either possession or the omission of letters or numbers.

 

Rule Example

An apostrophe before the letter 's' at the end of the word indicates possession

 

Possession exception: The use of 'its' and 'it's'.

It's is not possessive but a contraction of 'it is'

Its is a possessive pronoun meaning 'belonging to it'

 

 

The customer's credit card (the credit card belongs to the customer)

 


 

It's highly likely the card holder will call to ask about fees. The product claims its fees are highly competitive.

Apostrophes should not be used when forming the plural of ordinary words

Yes: credit cards

No: credit card's

Plural nouns not ending in 's' take an apostrophe and s in the possessive
Shareholder's meeting

Plural nouns that do end in 's' - add the apostrophe after the s to indicate possession

Exceptions

Never use Westpac's or Westpacs' - just Westpac

business' (not business's when possessive)

 

 

Plural names ending in s Alexis' money box was delivered to school

No apostrophe

If writing a company name - always check their website to see if they use an apostrophy in their name or not)

When writing decades

ATMs

1990s

PDFs (ask about this one)

Barclays Bank

 

   
   

Don't bold or underline words to create emphasis. Bold references to buttons and Westpac Live navigation menu, tabs etc.

Rule Example
Don't underline, capitalise or bold text for emphasis - no random bolding in body copy. This is because users might think it is a link

Yes: Want certainty on your budget? Lock in exchange rates on up to 5 major currencies.

No: Want certainty on your budget? Lock in exchange rates on up to 5 major currencies

Use bold in instructional copy, to explain how to do a task/ get to a page in internet banking
You will see Registered Business Details then select Edit next to Business address
Use chevrons in an article to explain how to get somewhere in Westpac Live
Go to Settings and contact details Registered Business Details > Edit to update your address
Don't use quotation marks when referring to navigation names or buttons/CTAs

Do: To increase your limit, log on to Westpac Live, go to Services and preferences then select Daily Payment Limit

 

Don't: To increase your limit, log on to 'Westpac Live', go to 'Services and preferences' then select 'Daily Payment Limit'.

 

   
   

Use rounded brackets unless advised otherwise by CX or Design.

Rule Example

Acronyms

In the first instance of the full spelling add the acronym in brackets. Thereafter, use the acronym

You can update your tax file number (TFN) at  the Australian Tax Office (ATO). Once you update your TFN please let us know.
Use normal punctuation in bracketed content
Set up a regular direct debit on your account for  bills (e.g. phone, water or electricity) to stay on top of your finances.
Make sure the sentence still makes sense if the brackets and the copy inside the brackets are removed
 

 

   
   

Use bullets where appropriate. They can help organise content and improve the flow of information on your page.

 

Rules Example

Bullets are preferable to long paragraphs. They help your users scan and read content easily

 

Think about the length of items in a bulleted list. If each item is a full paragraph you are losing the impact of bulleting

 

When formatting bulleted lists, remember,

  • The sentence, clause or word that precedes the list should end with a colon (:)
  • Sentence case for each bullet point (i.e. start with a capital letter)
  • Only full stop the last bullet
  • Do not add 'and' at the end of the second last bullet (unless Legal or Compliance have written the copy)
  • Do not have more than seven bullets.  

See our other business loans:
 

  • Bank Guarantee
  • Business Equity Finance
  • Insurance Premium Finance
  • Agribusiness loans
  • Business credit cards.  

 

Numbered lists are more appropriate than bulleted lists when conveying a sequence of events, such as a series of steps to do something in Westpac Live. Note the same rules apply to both numbered and bulleted lists.

 

When formatting numbered lists, remember,

  • The sentence, clause or word that precedes the list should end with a colon (:)
  • Start each point upper case (capital letter)
  • Only full stop the last bullet.

This is what you need to do:

  1. Nominate your preferred card using the selector tool
  2. Enter your details
  3. Agree to the terms and conditions
  4. Submit your application.  

 

   
   

Calls to action are buttons and hyperlinks

 

Rule Example
No full stops in buttons
 
Try to be contextual so you're encouraging the read to click through for more information. It's also good for SEO

Yes: Keep reading

No: Find out more, Learn more

When referring to signing into internet banking, make sure the two words 'sign' and 'in' and separate, for example:

Westpac: Use 'Sign in' and 'Sign out' - not 'Signin', 'Login', 'Log out'

St.George, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne: Use 'Log on' and 'Log off'

 

Sign in to Westpac Live

 

Keep CTA copy short and action orientated

It should be clear to the customer/user where we are taking them

Get cardless cash

Compare EFTPOS

Help me choose

Calculate

Top up

Starting a form - when starting orgination use simple language

Let's get started

Get started

Let's start

Avoid excessive use of 'More information', 'Find out more', 'Learn more'

Also good copy to use when linking to video demonstrations.

Discover more

Explore more

Start exploring

Show me how

Tell me more

Tell me how

Some info

Keep reading

What's next?

Take a tour

Here's how

How it works

Introducing a new feature

Something new

See what's new

It's new

Did you know?

Activate, change or setting something up - avoid the use of corporate language such as 'enable' or 'access'.

Set up

Activate

Add

Change

Upgrade

Update

Choose

Switch to

Get

Interaction - when describing how to use/get on a page remember the user could be using a mobile or tablet device - the interaction will be different to desktop.

Avoid use of 'click'.

Tap

Swipe

Select

Scroll

Check the box

Uncheck the box

Account opening

Open account

Open now

Open

Open online

Open online in 10 minutes

Open in minutes

Quotes and applying

Get a quote

Apply now

Apply

Apply online in 10 minutes

 

   
   

 

Rule
Example
Sentence case is standard including:
 
Page titles
Personal loans | Westpac

Navigation

About us

Personal loans

Headings (H1)

Merchant services

Protecting your business

Sub headings
Rewards credit cards
CTAs - buttons

Apply now

Get started

Compare accounts

Validations/error messages

This is missing

Form fields

Phone number

Business name

Email address 

Products
 
Branded product and service names - capitalise

American Express Westpac Altitude card bundle

55 Day Platinum card

Business Debit Mastercard

Westpac Business Loan

Altitude Platinum credit card

Other product and service names - do not capitalise (unless start of a sentence)

bank account

term deposit

credit cards

home loans

travel money card

Other  
Seasons - lower case (unless start of a sentence)

spring

summer

autumn

winter

Holidays - capitalise

Christmas

Easter

Chinese New Year

Days and months are caps

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc.

January, February, March etc.

Using 'k' - lower case

Yes: $100k

No: $100K

No capitalisation of common words and terms

tax return

bank statement

starting a business

Capitalise form and guide names (e.g. pdfs) if this is how it appears on the form/ guide.

Get Started Guide

Capitalise proper nouns (names) such as:

  • Geographical names
  • Government Departments
  • Languages
  • Trademarks and registered business names
  • Awards and prizes
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Swedish, Spanish
  • Amercian Express, Mastercard
  • Best Business Bank Award 2017 
Online terms are lower case (unless start of a sentence)

email

homepage

website

internet

online

webpage

References to menu or navigational items

When explaining how to navigate - should be sentence case and as written in Westpac Live/Internet banking. These should also be bolded.

Hover over Service & preferences and select User administration. Select the User by clicking on their name.

 

   
   

 

Rule Example

Colons

Used in sentences to introduce that something follows, e.g. a quotation, list or example

 

Capitalise the first letter in the bulleted list

 

Folow the colon with a space

It is always preceded by a complete sentence; what follows the colon may or may not be a complete sentence

There are 3 ways to apply for a loan at Westpac:

  • Online
  • In person
  • Over the phone.

 

Please note the following: the interest rate has increased

Semi-colons

Used to separate two main clauses that are closely related to each other but could stand on their own as sentences if you wanted them to. They are used to add variety when there are too many short, snappy sentences

 

Can be used for lists within a sentence

The credit card will be sent out in 5 days; the letter will be posted a few days later

 

 

Our branches are now closed in Brisbane, Queensland; Sydney, New South Wales; and Perth, Western Australia

 

   
   

Commas are used to show where a user should pause in a sentence. Used properly they make the meaning of the sentence clear. However, there can be a tendency to overuse commas.

 

Rule Example

Comma with subject and verbs - with few exceptions, a comma should not seprate a subject from its verb

 

Writers often separate as they believe there should be a pause but it makes the sentence stilted

Yes: My colleague Anthony is a great singer

No: My colleague Anthony, is a great singer

Use commas to separate words, and word groups in a series of three or more items

Both correct

I need to get a savings account, loan, debit card and credit card

I need to get a savings account, loan, debit card, and credit card (this is known as an Oxford Comma but we try not to use it)

Occasionally a comma is needed before the word 'and' to help avoid confusion - usually where there is more than one 'and'

They will seek the support of students, teachers, parents, and community and small business groups.

Comma splices

When joining two independent clauses, you need a conjunction (or, and, so) or a semicolon

No: I lost my credit card, I went to the branch

Yes: I lost my credit card, so I went to the branch

Yes: I lost my credit card; I went to the branch

 

Don't use a comma within a comparison

No: This credit card is cheaper, than that credit card

Yes: This credit card is cheaper than that credit card

Comma before 'but'

Use a comma before the word if it's joining two independent clauses

If not joining two independent clauses leave it out

 

(An independent clause is a simple sentence.)

No: Annabelle is a good singer but she's an even better dancer

Yes: Annabelle is a good singer, but she's an even better dancer

No: My boss is tough, but fair

Yes: My boss is tough but fair

Use commas to separate names from titles
Brian Hartzer, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, will be at the meeting.

 

   
   

Contractions can give your content a conversational tone and can help your content flow. Use them to replicate how people speak to each other.

 

Rule Example

Where appropriate common contractions should be used

Note: It's important to strike a balance with the copy on your page, especially if talking about a serious topic where too many contractions could sound frivolous

Yes: You're

No: You are

Yes: We're

No: We are

Yes: We'll

No: We will

Don't use unnatural sounding or overly colloquial contractions
isn't, where'd, he'd, she'd

They're, their and there are commonly misused

  • They're is a contraction of 'They are'
  • Their is a possessive pronoun (i.e. something belongs to someone)
  • There indicates location.
 

 

   
   

 

Rule Example
Spell out the names of states and territories in the first instance with abbreviations in brackets - then use abbreviations thereafter

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

New South Wales (NSW)

Northern Territory (NT)

Queensland (Qld)

South Australia (SA)

Tasmania (Tas)

 

United States - use 'US' not America

United Kingdom - use UK not England or Great Britain

US banks performed strongly

UK stocks took a hammering yesterday

 

   
   

 

Rule Example

Spell out days and months in full

Exception

CTAs

Mobile content - can shorten to Jan, Feb etc..

January, February etc.

Monday, Tuesday etc.

Dates should appear as day, date, month and then year

Avoid using DD/MM/YYYY so we don't confuse international customers

Wednesday 7 February 2018
Do not include 'st' or 'th' to keep copy short

Yes: 24 January 2016

No: 24th January 2016

Use numbers without an apostrophe 

Yes: 1990s

No: 1990's 

When writing a date range use an en dash (no space either side) The wesbite will be unavailable from 10-11 January 2018 

Numbers from 0-9 should be written as a word

Numbers from 10 and up (double digit up) should be written as numbers 

The card was released five months ago

The rate has been low for 12 years 

Use an 'en dash' with no space either side when writing about a range of dates
Westpac live will be unavailable 25-26 February 2018

Use figures, except for midday and midnight

Never say '12am' as it is confusing - use midnight

Use Noon or midday for 12pm

Our competition will end at midnight

 

Do not put 00 if the time is on the hour

Use an en dash between time spans with a space on either side

Yes: 9am - 5pm

No: 9.00am - 5.00pm

Use 24/7 and not 24 hours, 7 days a week
 

See also Numbers

   
   

 

Rule Example

Full stops

Use a full stop at the end of a complete sentence

Yes: Download the Westpac App. It has product, service and FAQ information.

No: Download the Westpac App, it has product, service and FAQ information.

Do not use a full stop in H1 headings or sub-headings

Exception

Brand campaigns in banners

Business Credit Cards

Choose from our range of business cards

Do not use a full stop in CTA buttons

Enquire now

Compare cards

Do not use at the end of bullet points - except for the last bullet point

You can open an account:

  • Online
  • In a branch
  • By calling us.

Ampersands (&)

Try to avoid using this as a substitute for 'and' unless it is an organisation or product name

 

Use the ampersand the same way the company or product does including spacing

 

Tiffany & Co

Percent (%)

Use the symbol in most instances

3.59% p.a. Flexi First Option home loan

Hyphens ( - )

Avoid overuse of hyphens. Use to connect words that have a combined meaning

See Hyphen section for more info

Up-to-date

State-of-the-art

Exclamation mark (!)

Rule of thumb would be to avoid the use of exclamation marks on the website unless it is a marketing campaign

 

Question mark (?)

These are a great way to introduce content or shorten the length of a heading

Need cash for your business quickly? Apply for an unsecured business overdraft today.

Spaces

Don't use a space either side of a /

 

Only use one space after a full stop not two

 

Yes: and/or

No: and / or

 

   
   

 

Rule Example

Headings break content down into bite-sized chunks. They allow users to scan what is on a page

 

They should be sentence case with no full stop at the end. The sub copy underneath should have a full stop

Discover business product offers

Latest business offers and featured products in one place.

Article headings should have no full stop and should explain in the heading what the artcicle is about
 

 

   
   

Always hyperlink with meaningful copy (never use 'click here')

 

Rule Example
All external links and pdfs should open in a new screen
 
Links should be contextual in copy

A competitive variable rate, with interest paid on the outstanding balance, not the limit.

 

Yes: Download a Super for Life information pack

No: Download a Super for Life information pack

Avoid using 'Click here', 'Find out more' as they do not communicate anything about what information we are linking to
See CTA section for examples of what copy to use
Email addresses are always lower case
beyonceknowles@westpac.com.au

 

 

   
   

Use a hyphen to join words to indicate that they have a combined meaning or that they are linked in the grammar of a sentence.

 

Rule Example
There should be no space either side of a hyphen when there is one word or number on either side

5-digit password

Use hyphens in sentences instead of colons

In this instance you can use a space either side of the hyphen

The credit card has many features - no fees, low rate
If there's more than one word either side of the hyphen then use a space both sides
Delighting customers - by deeply understanding and exceeding expectations
Use a hyphen where not using one would be ambiguous

She received three-monthly bank statements (every three months)

She received three monthly bank statements (monthly for three months)

Use hyphens with single letters - although some 'e' words are dropping it

Do not hyphenate email

X-ray, e-commerce

 

 

   
   

 

Rule Example
Navigation and menu items should be sentence case

Home loans

International and travel 

 

 

   
   

 

Rule Example

Numbers 0-9 should be written as a word

Numbers from 10 and up should be written as numbers 

Exceptions:

- Age

- School years

- Millions, billions

- Dates

- Street addresses

- Marketing copy 

 

 

Numbers 0-9 should be written as a word

Numbers from 10 and up should be written as numbers 

Never begin a sentence with a number - always a word

 

Exception:

Headings

 

Yes: Seventy credit cards went missing

No: 70 credit cards went missing

 

Yes: 7 ways to pay off our credit card 

Put a comma in numerals over 999

1,000

10,000 

BSB -  separate the 6 digits after the first 3 numbers with a dash 732-118
Telephone numbers

6 digit: 132 032

10 digit: (+61 2) 9155 7700 

Range/span of numbers - should be separated with an en dash (no space) 

Yes: 7-8

No: 7 - 8

 

Percentages - use % and not 'per cent' in headlines and body copy

Use no decimal place if whole number

Use two decimal places if decimal used 

6%

6.70% 

 

Abreviation of 'number' - use no with a full stop

No space after the fill stop

no.76   

Currencies

Lower case when using whole word

Use AUD, INR, CAD, EUR, GB, NZD etc.. and no symbol when using the abbreviation on our foreign currency pages

euro, dollar, sterling, pound

Yes: AUD120

No: AUD$120 

   

 

   
   

 

Rule Example
Avoid sexism in language

Yes: Spokesperson

No: Spokesman 

Write 'Indigenous Australians' when writing about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Capitalise Indigenous and Elders 

69% of partner organisations reported a greater overall knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Australian people.

Do not define anyone by their disability

Use positive language 

A person with disabilities (not a disabled person) 

 

   
   

 

Rule Example
When quoting someone directly the words appearing in quotation marks should be the actual words spoken by the speaker.  

To enclose the exact words of a speaker use double quotation marks.

Place commas and full stops inside the quotes for a completed quoted sentence. 

Don't use a comma before a quotation. 

Kolovos said "the conference went extremely well."

 

 

   
   

 

Rule Example

Standard Australian spellings use UK English not US English

Don't rely on spell check as many words have more than one spelling

 

 

Yes: You were right all along

No: You were write all along 

Use 'our' and not 'or' in words like 'colour'

Be careful with the American 'z'

Monetise not Monetize

Organisation not organization

We talk about 'customers' (not clients) and 'business' (not company).  
Use 'an' before a silent h 

an hour, an honour

a hotel, a historic event 

Less/fewer

Less means smaller in quantity

Fewer means smaller in number

 

Less money

Fewer people

Anytime

We should use any time not anytime

Call us at any time

 

   
   

Superscript is the use of smaller numbers, letters or symbols inserted after a word to reference content in a footer.

Rule Example

We should use numbers for supercsript so our users can easily find what it is referencing in our disclaimer or footnotes

Never use a number more than once

Numbers should be in numerical order as a user reads down a page

No bullets for superscript in disclaimers

Put the superscript reference outside the full stop

We need to superscript more.7
Never use subscript as a superscript Superscript9
Do not mix numbers and symbols  

Where you can avoid the use of superscript do so especially if:

1. You can hyperlink the content to another page

2. If the reference is short and you can include it in the sentence

 

 

   
   

 

Rule Example
Avoid referencing third party websites unless you have approval to do so or it is a government website The Australian Taxation Office also has some nifty calculators to help you work out tax deductions for your expenses.

Third parties should be:

  • Reputable – ideally an established brand that the reader will recognise. Government is most reputable, then industry bodies/consultancies (Deloitte, Accenture et al.), then large brands and so on
  • Relevant – an organisation that ‘fits’ with Westpac without appearing like a random connection. Think personal finance rather than travel agents
  • Non-competitive – move away from citing brokers or organisations that may be closely affiliated with our competitors.

 

 

 

   
   

We have an easy A-Z of words to watch out for.