Scope house style guide

Our tone of voice is the way we write and speak as Scope. It reflects:

If you are unsure what language to use, ask the experts:

  • the person or people you are writing about
  • specialist organisations

We respect other people’s language choices. This means we accept people’s right to describe themselves.

When we write as Scope, we use social model language.

Abbreviations and acronyms

Write acronyms out the first time you mention them. For example, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with no stops between the letters.

Accessible

We use 'accessible' to describe products, services and places that offer disabled people the same access as everyone else. For example, we say 'accessible toilet' instead of a 'disabled toilet' and 'accessible parking space' instead of 'disabled parking space'.

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. It's acceptable to shorten it to Alzheimer's. We always write Alzheimer's as capitalised and with an apostrophe.

Ampersand (&)

Use 'and' instead of an ampersand (&) unless it is in relation to a brand name, for example Marks & Spencer. 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

You can abbreviate it to ADHD after the first reference with the abbreviation included in brackets.

Autism

Many people prefer to use ‘autistic person’ or ‘autistic people’ to describe themselves.

How to talk about autism (The National Autistic Society)

Benefits

Please follow the house style advice on Government Digital Service.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is lower case. Mind says, "The term 'bipolar' refers to the way your mood can change between 2 very different states – mania and depression. In the past, bipolar disorder was referred to as manic depression, so you might still hear people use this term."

Blind

Never refer to 'the blind'.

Guide Dogs is a working name for The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is no longer called Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB).

RNIB says ‘blind or partially sighted people’. Others use the terms ‘visually impaired’ or ‘visual impairment’.

Bold, italic and underline

Do not use bold, italic or underline to convey meaning. They are harder to read and not accessible to screenreaders.

Underline can also be mistaken for a link.

Braille

Braille is the tactile alphabet designed to be read by fingers rather than eyes. Always use a capital B.

Britain or UK

We use Britain to refer to England, Wales and Scotland. The UK refers to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scope works only in England and Wales.

British Sign Language (BSL)

Often abbreviated to BSL, it is the sign language most used in the UK. 

Bullet points

When bullet points list items or complete the sentence, we:

  • use lower case at the start of the bullet point
  • and do not use punctuation at the end

Sometimes a bullet list can have complete sentences.

  • We use upper case at the start of the bullet point.
  • We use punctuation at the end.

Capital letters

DO NOT USE ALL CAPS. It looks like shouting and is harder to read than normal text.

Do not use initial capital letters in headlines. "Talking about disability rights", rather than "Talking About Disability Rights".

Do not use capital letters in 'helpline' and 'online community'.

Proper nouns like the name of a person, place, service or job title should have capital letters.

Cerebral palsy (CP)

Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects muscle control and movement. It's usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during or after birth.

Chronic

A long-standing or persistent condition – always lower case.

Cripple or crippled

'Cripple' and 'crippled' are offensive and outdated terms. Some disabled people may use 'crips' as a means of self-expression but Scope would not.

Dates

For consistency, write dates like this: 5 May 2024. Write "on 5 May" (not "on 5th May" or "on the 5th of May").

Days

Use capital letters for public holidays, such as Christmas Day, Boxing Day or Easter Sunday. When referring to an awareness day, always write it as the organising body does, even if it contradicts our language. For example, we do not say 'persons with disabilities', but it's OK to say International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Deaf

We say ‘deaf person’ or ‘deaf people’. Never 'the deaf'. Some people refer to themselves as ‘Deaf’ with a capital D. This is The Cultural Model of Deafness.

What is the difference between deaf and Deaf? (SignHealth)

Diabetes

Some people might call themselves ‘diabetic’, but we would refer to them as ‘someone with diabetes’.

Disabled people

At Scope, we follow the social model of disability as opposed to a medical model. The social model says people are disabled by society, not by their impairments or conditions. We use the terms 'disabled people' or 'disabled person'. We do not use the terms 'people with disabilities' or 'person with a disability' but we respect other people's language choices. 

Disorder

We avoid saying someone has a disorder unless it is a medical term. 

Don't

Avoid negative contractions such as 'don't' and 'can't' as these are harder to read online.

Use 'do not' and 'cannot'. Or try framing statements in the positive instead! 

E.g.

Always use 'for example'.

Email

Use email, not e-mail.

Et cetera

Avoid Latin. Write 'and so on' instead.

If you are writing, "This includes…", you do not need 'etc' at the end of the sentence.

Exclamation marks

Limit the use of exclamation marks to orders and urgent statements and requests. Do not use before or after a full stop.

Extra Costs

Extra Costs is the title of a campaign by Scope. It shows that disabled households with at least 1 disabled adult or child face extra costs of £975 a month on average. Use lower case when talking about 'extra costs for disabled people'.

Face-to-face

For face-to-face fundraising, we use hyphens.

Full stops

Use a single space after a full stop.

Fundraising

Not fund-raising or fund raising.

Gendered nouns

Where possible, use gender-neutral terms, rather than those ending in 'man'. For example, use 'chair' instead of 'chairman'. Examples include:

  • actor, not actress
  • child, not son or daughter
  • partner, not wife or husband

#Hashtags

Use a capital letter for each word in hashtags so that screen reader software reads out each word separately. It also makes them #EasierToRead.

Headings and titles

Use headings (ideally less than 8 words) that describe the text. Use keywords at the start of headings. Break up large blocks of text with sub-headings.

Hearing aid

Always written in lower case. Never called a deaf aid.

Helpline

No need for a capital letter. "Scope's helpline answered nearly 28,000 telephone and email enquiries in 2023."

Here East

The location of Scope's London (not head) office is Here East.

Hyphens

Hyphens and dashes can cause readability issues.

Use words without hyphens if you can. For example, say ‘single payment’ instead of ‘one-off’.

Do not use hyphens for time and date ranges, instead use 'to'.

i.e.

Never use this abbreviation. Always use 'such as'.

Images and alt-text

All images should follow our brand guidelines and reflect a diverse range of people.

Decorative images

Decorative images add no extra information to the text. Mark these as decorative in Microsoft programs.

Meaningful images

Use a text alternative (alt text) to describe images that convey information. Write what you want people to know or understand, not just what is in the image.

Write effective alt text (Microsoft)

Types of images (W3)

Image decision tree (W3)

Hidden or invisible impairment

We say ‘less visible impairment'. Disabled people should not need to 'hide' or 'disclose' their impairments.

Is / are

Collective nouns (such as the words below) are always singular:

  • Scope is... (but say 'we are' to encourage people to feel a part of what we want to achieve)
  • the campaigns department is...
  • the local group is... 

Jobs

Use upper case when referring to a specific role or named person. For example, the Retail Director, Joe Bloggs.

It's lower case if you are writing about a retail director or a marketing executive rather than the named role.

Learning difficulty

We prefer to use the term ‘learning difficulty’ to describe dyslexia, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia and dyscalculia.

Learning disability

Mencap and other organisations use ‘learning disability’ to define “a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example, household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life”.

Learning disability or learning difficulty? (Mencap)

Links

Good link text describes what you're linking to and makes sense when read on its own. Never use 'click here' or 'here' or 'read more'.

Try to make a link stand out in its own paragraph or at the end of the relevant section.

For web pages, we include the source for external links, like this:

Contact your local council (GOV.UK)

London office

Always write as 'London office', never HQ or Head Office.

Mental health

We talk about mental health or mental health conditions.

Motor neurone disease (MND)

A group of conditions that affect the nerves (motor neurones) in the brain and spinal cord that tell your muscles what to do. Always write in lower case, never 'Motor Neurone Disease' or 'Motor Neurone'.

What is MND?

Money

Do not add '00' when referring to round sums of money. For example:

  • £3, not £3.00
  • £100
  • £2,000, not £2k
  • £20 million

Include a space between the number and the unit.

Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is the spectrum which includes everyone, neurotypical and neurodivergent people.

The term ‘neurodivergent people’ includes autistic people and those with ADHD, dyslexia and mental health conditions.

Non-disabled people

We refer to 'non-disabled people', not 'able-bodied', 'normal' or 'healthy' people.

Numbers

Write all numbers as numerals as they are easier to read.

Avoid using 0. Say ‘children under 5’ rather than ‘children aged 0 to 5’.

Numbers from 1,000 upwards should have a comma to separate the thousands. For example, 10,000 and 100,000.

Do not use an apostrophe when referring to decades or plurals. This makes them possessive. For example, 1980s not 1980's; under-16s not under-16's.

Read more about accessible numbers.

Older people

We prefer to say older people. Never 'the elderly'.

One-to-one

Not 121 or 1-2-1.

Online

One word. Do not use 'on-line' or 'on line'.

Online community

Our online community (no capital letters) is a safe and welcoming space where disabled people and their families can ask questions and discuss the things that matter to them.

Passive

We use active sentences to keep things short and easier to understand.

Active: Try to use active sentences.

Passive: Passive sentences should be avoided.

Parkinson's disease

Always written in full, with a capital 'P'.

Part-time

Always hyphenated, never 'part time'.

Percentages

We say ‘100%’, not ‘100 percent’.

Portable Document Format (PDF)

A web page is more accessible and searchable than a PDF.

An HTML web page or plain text format like Word is the best way to make content accessible. It should be your main format for text. If you want to use a PDF, it should be as well as a web page or plain text document. You cannot have a fully accessible PDF so it must not be the only format available. Even if you have formatted or tagged the PDF correctly, some people will still face barriers.

Read why GOV.UK does not like PDFs.

Phone numbers

Write numbers with the correct spacing. For example, 020 7619 7100 and 0808 800 3333

Plain English

To check readability, we use Hemingway. We aim for level 7 or below for web pages.

Plain English campaign

Punctuation

Avoid unnecessary punctuation. For example, do not use semi-colons or commas after each item in a bulleted list. Others to avoid are:

  • parentheses, also known as brackets ()
  • ellipses…
  • slashes /

Quotations

Always use double quotation marks for direct speech.

For example: "This is direct speech."

Race

Do you need to say what race a person is? If you do, be specific and accurate. Ask the person how they describe themselves.

Most of our colleagues prefer 'Black' or ‘Black, Asian or minority ethnic’. Please do not shorten this to 'BAME'.

But only use ‘Black, Asian and minority ethnic’ to describe a group of people, not an individual.

Scope

Capital S, but never SCOPE. In blogs and articles, it's warmer to use 'we', 'us' or 'our'.

Sexuality and gender

We talk about how people are, not about 'preference'.

We say 'pronoun', not 'preferred pronoun'. 

We say 'sexual orientation' or 'sexual identity', not 'sexual preference'.

We use the acronym LGBTQ+ which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and other identities.

What are pronouns? 

Spastics Society

Until 1994 Scope was The Spastics Society. We changed our name because the word 'spastic' became a term of abuse. We do not use the word 'spastic' in any of our communications unless we are referring to the organisation's past or heritage. Read about our history.

Suffers

Saying someone 'suffers' from a condition implies that they have a reduced quality of life. This is not an assumption we want to make. Instead we would say, he has spina bifida or she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Suicide

We would say someone ‘died by suicide’, not 'committed suicide' as suicide is no longer a crime.

How to talk about suicide safely online (Samaritans)

Support

'Support' is a word we tend to use a lot in Scope but it's better to say that we support or work with disabled people than we 'help' or 'care for' disabled people.

Support to Work

Support to Work is our digital employment service. We always say 'Support to Work', never 'Support To Work' or StoW.

They, them

Try to avoid referring to disabled people as 'they' and 'them'. If you do it a lot, it feels a bit distant and creates a 'them' and 'us' divide. Say ‘they’ or ‘them’ rather than ‘he/she’ or ‘(s)he’.

Times

Use screen reader-friendly time and date ranges:

  • 10.30am to 11.30am
  • tax year 2011 to 2012
  • Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (put different days on a new line, do not separate with a comma).

Tourette syndrome

Also known as Tourette's or TS.

URLs (or web addresses)

Use hyphens between words in URLs (web addresses) but never paste URLs into documents.

Users

Try to limit the term 'user' where possible. Try 'people who use our services’ or ‘customers’ rather than ‘service users’.

Vulnerable

Avoid using ‘vulnerable’. Say ‘vulnerable to coronavirus’ if you need to.

Websites

Not web-site or web site.

Wheelchair users

It is OK to say ‘wheelchair users’ in the plural but talking about ‘a person who uses a wheelchair’ sounds more human. We would avoid saying 'in a wheelchair’ or ‘wheelchair-bound’.

You

Imagine you are having a conversation with someone and, where possible, use 'you' and 'we'.

Further advice

Please follow the advice on:

Follow the Scope content design team blog.

Related content

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