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.
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 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.
Use 'and' instead of an ampersand (&) unless it is in relation to a brand name, for example Marks & Spencer.
Try to avoid using the phrase 'and/or'. Choose either 'and' or 'or'. The same applies to the phrase, 'if and when'.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
You can abbreviate it to ADHD after the first reference with the abbreviation included in brackets.
Many people prefer to use ‘autistic person’ or ‘autistic people’ to describe themselves.
How to talk about autism (The National Autistic Society)
Please follow the house style advice on Government Digital Service.
Bipolar disorder is always spelled in lower case. Mind says, "The term 'bipolar' refers to the way your mood can change between two 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."
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 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. It is the language used to over 87,000 deaf people in the UK.
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 be complete sentences.
- We use upper case at the start of the bullet point.
- We use punctuation at the end.
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 always 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.
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 we would not.
For consistency, write dates like this: 5 July 2022. Write "on 5 May" (not "on 5th May" or "on the 5th of May").
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.
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)
Some people might call themselves ‘diabetic’, but we would refer to them as ‘someone with diabetes’.
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.
We avoid saying someone has a disorder unless it is a medical term.
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!
Always use 'for example'.
Use email, not e-mail.
Do not use Latin. Write 'and so on' instead.
If you are writing, "This includes…" you do not need etc.
Limit the use of exclamation marks to orders and urgent statements and requests. Do not use after a full stop.
Extra Costs is the title of a campaign by Scope. It shows that, on average, disabled people in the UK face extra costs of £583 per month related to their impairment or condition. Use lower case when talking about 'extra costs for disabled people'.
For face-to-face fundraising, we use hyphens.
Always use a single space after a full stop.
Not fund-raising or fund raising.
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
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.
Always written in lower case. Never called a deaf aid.
No need for a capital letter. "Scope's helpline answered 34,645 telephone and email enquiries in 2021."
The location of Scope's London (not head) office is Here East.
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".
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 add no extra information to the text. Mark these as decorative in Microsoft programs.
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...
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.
We prefer to use the term ‘learning difficulty’ to describe dyslexia, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia and dyscalculia.
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)
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)
Always write as 'London office', never HQ or Head Office.
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?
Do not add '00' when referring to round sums of money. For example:
- £3, not £3.00
- £2,000, not £2k
- £20 million
Include a space between the number and the unit.
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.
We refer to 'non-disabled people', not 'able-bodied', 'normal' or 'healthy' people.
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.
We prefer to say older people. Never 'the elderly'.
Not 121 or 1-2-1.
One word. Do not use 'on-line' or 'on line'.
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.
We use active sentences to keep things short and easier to understand.
Active: Try to use active sentences.
Passive: Passive sentences should be avoided.
Always written in full, with a capital 'P'.
Always hyphenated, never 'part time'.
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.
Write numbers with the correct spacing. For example, 020 7619 7100 and 0808 800 3333
To check readability, we use Hemingway. We aim for level 7 or below for web pages.
Plain English campaign
Keep this minimal and avoid unnecessary punctuation. For example, do not use semi-colons or commas after each item in a bulleted list. Others to avoid are:
- semi-colons after bullet points
- parentheses, also known as brackets ()
- slashes /
Always use double quotation marks for direct speech.
For example: "This is direct speech."
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.
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?
Not retail outlets or retail stores. We always refer to 'our Scope shops are across the country' or 'visit your local Scope shop today'.
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.
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.
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' 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.
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’.
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).
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.
Try to limit the term 'user' where possible. Try 'people who use our services’ or ‘customers’ rather than ‘service users’.
Avoid using ‘vulnerable’. Say ‘vulnerable to coronavirus’ if you need to.
Not web-site or web site.
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’.
Imagine you are having a conversation with someone and, where possible, use 'you' and 'we'.
Please follow the advice on
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