Digital content guidelines

We write content for the user, not for ourselves.

So, we design content to give users what they need:

  • only when they need it
  • as simply and quickly as possible
  • using words they understand
  • in a consistent way

Designing content that puts our users first makes it easier and faster for them to use our services, encourages them to interact with us again and builds trust in what we’re saying.

A

1 Angel Square

The name of Co-op’s building in Manchester. The name and address is 1 Angel Square. Do not refer to it as ‘head office’, ‘headquarters’ or ‘1AS’.

Abbreviations and acronyms

Spell out abbreviations and acronyms the first time you use them, followed by the abbreviation in brackets. Do not use full stops within or after abbreviations or acronyms.

For example write ‘Customer Relationship Management (CRM)’ and then ‘CRM’ each time after that.

Make exceptions for familiar acronyms like URL, BBC or HR. You do not need to spell them out in the first instance.

Alcohol

Do not promote alcohol in a way that makes it seem as though it:

  • appeals to under 18s
  • incorporates people who look under 25
  • suggests alcohol is life enhancing or therapeutic
  • is easy to down or binge drink
  • leads to social success
  • suggests an association with bravado or antisocial behaviour
  • benefits from higher alcohol content
  • has any association with sexual activity or sexual success
  • has acceptance of, or an illusion to, illicit drugs

For example, do not say ‘you’ll be cooler with a glass of wine, feel better with a lovely beer’.

See the Portman code for full guidance. portmangroup.org.uk/codes/alcohol-marketing/code-of-practice

Always communicate the alcoholic nature of a drink and include the Drinkaware logo on any alcohol product advertising. Even on drinks that look like alcohol where there is no context that the drink is nonalcoholic, for example mocktails.

The laws around the promotion of alcohol differ in countries across the UK, and even in some local authorities.

In Scotland, promotions are only acceptable when displayed in designated zones.

Any communication that includes alcohol must be approved by the Co-op legal team.

Areas

Cymru/Wales

Central and Eastern

East Midlands

East of England

Isle of Man

London

North East

North West

Northern Ireland

Scotland

South East

South West

West Midlands

Yorkshire and the Humber

B

board members

the Co-op board

You can find out more about the Co-op board and directors on our website.

Brackets or parentheses

Round brackets

Use round brackets to clarify an acronym or technical term that you’ll use from that point onwards, for example: ‘customer team member (CTM)’, or ‘the people you want to sort out your will (known as ‘executors’)’.

They can also include supplementary information that’s not essential to the main point of your sentence. Information that, if removed, would not change the meaning of the sentence.

Do not use round brackets to indicate that something can be singular or plural, like: ‘Check which document(s) you need to send to HR’.

Instead, use the plural, as this will cover each possibility: ‘Check which documents you need to send to HR’.

(A complete sentence that stands alone in parentheses starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop before the closing bracket.)

Try not to overuse brackets, as they can disrupt the flow of reading.

Square brackets

Only use square brackets when you need to add clarification to a quote or something you’ve not written yourself, like: ‘It [content] deserves our full time and attention’.

C

cafe

colons and semicolons

Use a colon at the end of a lead-in line to a bulleted list. For example:

You need to bring:

  • your driving licence or passport
  • a copy of your P60
  • proof of your address, like a recent utility bill

If you’re using a colon or semicolon, it can make your sentence long and hard to read. If you think a sentence needs one of these, break it into separate sentences instead.

Co-op

Refer to Co-op in writing as ‘Co-op’, upper case and hyphenated. Do not use ‘Co-op Group’ or ‘the Group’.

Where possible and practical, try not to say ‘the Co‑op’. We know that users tend to refer to our food stores as ‘the Co‑op’, so dropping the ‘the’ avoids any confusion.

Our businesses are capitalised, so Co-op Food, Co-op Funeralcare for example. You can refer to them without ‘Co-op’ so ‘our Food business’ or ‘visit one of our Food stores’.

Using ‘our’ as in ‘our Co‑op’ can be powerful but use it with caution. Is it clear who ‘our’ is? Will ‘our’ mean the same thing to your reader as it does to you? It’s more suited to an internal audience.

Co-operative

Only use ‘co-operative’ when talking about things like ‘the co-operative movement’ or ‘other co-operative societies’ and it should be lower case, unless it’s at the start of a sentence.

‘Co‑operative’ and ‘Co‑op’ are always hyphenated. The only exception to this rule is on social media when using a hashtag such as #TheCoopWay or #BeingCoop, or in a website address like coop.co.uk.

Co-operative Banking Group

No longer part of Co-op.

Co-op branded

Not ‘own-brand’.

Co-op Commitment

Co-op committees

There are various committees made up of members of the board. You can find out more about the committees on our website

risk and audit committee nominations committee remuneration committee scrutiny committee non-executive directors’ fees committee

Co-operative Group Limited

The trading name of Co-op, use it only when you need to for legal reasons.

co-operative movement

co-operative principles

co-operative societies

other co-operatives

not ‘other co-ops’

Co-op National Members’ Council

Use the full title where possible, but you can also refer to this as ‘our Members’ Council’. You can find out more about the Co-op National Members’ Council on our website.

Co-op Members’ Council terms

Annual General Meeting (AGM) the council senate the council president member nominated directors members’ motion (a proposal that is voted on by members at our AGM. Motions can be put forward by our business, our members’ council or by individual members and some motions are required by our Rules.) elections stand for election

Co-op Young Members’ Group (CYMG)

A group of 6 young members who work with Co-op on specific projects to ensure that an authentic voice for young people is heard. Use full title in the first instance. Can be shortened to ‘our Young Members’ Group’ or CYMG after that.

Contractions

Use contractions like ‘it’s’ and ‘there’s’ to make your writing more informal and friendly - the way people tend to speak.

But do not use negative contractions like ‘don’t’ and ‘won’t’, instead use ‘do not’ and ‘will not’. Research has shown that some users need the ‘not’ to understand what’s being said. You can find out more about problems with negative contractions in Content Designer Jo Schofield’s blog post on Medium.

Do not force contractions if they look and feel odd. For example ‘they’ll’ and ‘there’ll’ are likely to slow people down.

D

Date

Monday 21 June 2018. Use only as much description as needed - you do not need to include the year every time if it’s obvious from context.

If you’re referring to date ranges, then use ‘to’ rather than hyphens or dashes. It should look like this: January to March

Avoid all references to annual quarters. Instead, write the dates in full: ‘This offer is valid between 1 October and 31 December 2018.’

Decades

Use numerals and write out decades in full, so 1970s not ‘70s.

dividend

Direct Debit

E

Eg

Do not use. Not everyone understands what it means. Say ‘for example’ instead.

For more information read this blog post about the use of contractions like ‘eg’ on GOV.UK.

Ellipsis (…)

Ellipsis are 3 dots that should only be used:

  • when you’re quoting someone and need to show words have been missed out — only do this if it will not change the meaning, for example: “We’re building things that are user-centric… doing the hard work centrally to make things clearer, simpler and quicker.”
  • to indicate there’s more to come, for example, in a header: ‘We asked our users to name a wine…’

If you use an ellipsis, use 3 dots only. They should follow straight on after the previous word (with no space), and have one space after.

If the ellipsis ends the sentence, do not add an additional full stop.

If you’re putting an ellipsis in html use the code &hellip so the dots do not break. (like this …)

Email

Etc

Do not use. Not everyone understands what it means. If you need to make it clear there are more unspecified items at the end of a list, you can use “and so on”.

Exclamation marks

Try not to use them unless they’re essential - they can look flippant and make your content lose impact when they’re over-used.

By simply ending your sentence with a full stop instead, you’re allowing your reader to focus on the message, rather than wonder whether your tone is insincere or strident.

F

Fairer Finance

Fairtrade

Used for products or the Fairtrade initiative. For example: ‘We’re proud to support Fairtrade’ or ‘All our bagged sugar is Fairtrade’.

fair trade

The theory and practice of fair trade, where producers in developing countries are paid a fair price for the goods they supply to companies in developed countries.

Fair Trade

Used for Co-op products that are certified by a credible fair trade organisation such as Traidcraft, but where there is no FAIRTRADE Mark available. Currently this applies to charcoal and rubber gloves.

FAIRTRADE Mark

The formal certification on products which contain ingredients certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO).

Fairtrade Fortnight

An annual celebration of Fairtrade used as a focus point for campaigners, businesses and the Fairtrade Foundation to educate the wider public on the benefits of Fairtrade. For example “Join us in celebrating Fairtrade Fortnight”.

FAQs

Do not use FAQs.

Instead, if you know that you are answering a genuine frequently asked question, restructure your content so that the answers form part of the main user journey. And put the information in a logical place in that journey.

We do not use FAQs because:

  • users do not know if their question has been frequently asked
  • they’re often made up by the business rather than genuinely asked by the public
  • users have to navigate through irrelevant content to see if their question is there, which is frustrating and wastes their time
  • we should be creating services that speak for themselves: we design with purpose

For more information read Content Strategist Tom Adams’ blog post on FAQs on the Co-op Digital blog.

Common food terms

aduki beans (not Adzuki beans)

albumen

alfresco

allspice

arrabiata

baking tray, not baking sheet

barbeque or BBQ, not barbie or barbecue

beers, wines and spirits (BWS)

birdseye chillies, one word not Birds Eye

biryani

black forest, not Blackforest

blackbean

British

brussels sprouts, not Brussel

bulgar wheat

buttercream

canned food, never a tin of tuna although tin is acceptable when describing a cake tin

cannelloni, not Canelloni

cardamom, not Cardamon

char sui, not Char Siu

cheese, capitalise where a place name or trademarked. For example, Stilton, Comté, Cheddar, Gruyère, Parmesan, feta, halloumi, goat’s cheese, mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano

chick pea or chick peas

chilli, or chillies

cling film, not clingfilm and ‘non-PVC cling film’ is also acceptable

clove of garlic, not garlic clove

chocolatey

confectionery, ends ‘ery’, the ‘ary’ spelling is for shops selling or making sweets

contactless

copra oil shall be declared as Coconut Oil

cordial, squash is preferred

cornflour

cottonseed

cotton wool balls

cotton wool buds

cotton wool pads

cup cakes, 2 words

crème fraÎche

couscous

dauphinoise

dinner4tonight/dinner4tonight.com

doughnut, not donuts except Dunkin’ Donuts

ecigarette

éclair

eschallots shall be declared as shallots

every day, means daily, as in open every day

everyday, is an adjective used to describe something as humdrum or normal, as in an everyday rice, shoes for everyday wear

Father’s day

fat-reduced

cocoa

fish cake (two words)

flameproof

free range

greaseproof and baking paper or greaseproof paper, not baking paper

habanero

Hanukkah

health and baby when describing category HBA

health care

hoisin, one word

homemade

hosiery

houmous

instore, available or activity taking place in a supermarket. For example, instore bakery, prepared instore or instore banking

in store, forthcoming/imminent/about to come as in ‘what have you got in store for me today’

ice cream

Irresistible, capitalised when referring to Co-op Irresistible

juice of ½ lemon, not juice ½ or ½ a lemon

kiwi fruit

lemon grass

Less v fewer. Less means smaller in quantity, for example less money. Fewer means smaller in number, for example fewer coins

litre or l, never Ltr

makeup, cosmetics

make up with someone

Manx or from the Isle of Man

margarita, a cocktail

margherita a pizza variety

microwaveable, not microwavable

Mother’s day

mozzarella

ovenproof

ok, not O.K. or okay

own brand, not own-brand or own-label

palm oil, never declare as Palm Kernel Oil

part baked not part-baked or partbaked

panini

panna cotta

pâté

passata, declared as Sieved Tomato if an ingredient

passion fruit

pasteurised

Peppadew

petits pains

petits pois

pilaf

pilau

poppadum

prosciutto

Prosecco

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

purée

queue, avoid using this word where possible

quiche Lorraine

radicchio (not Raddicchio, Radicchio)

reduced-fat

rapeseed

refrigerator

rice wine, not Sake

rocket, not Roquette

sausagemeat

self raising flour

self checkout, not self scan or sco

semi-skimmed

shiitake

Szechuan, capital S, not Sichuan

smartphone

smoky, not Smokey

soya bean

soya powder

soy sauce

squash is either a vegetable like a butternut squash, or a concentrated liquid made from fruit juice and sugar, which is diluted to make a drink. See Cordial.

stationary means not moving, stationery means writing materials

stick celery not celery stick

stir fry

stonebaked

sundried, not sun-dried

swiss roll

teaspoonful or teaspoonsful

tin, not used to described food and drinks packaging. Use can or canned.

tin foil, do not use, use either baking aluminium or wrapping foil

Tricolor, for pasta

Tricolour, for flags

vinaigrette, not vinegarette

water chestnuts

wheat protein, not wheat gluten

Worcestershire not Worcester

yogurt

Common funeral terms

ashes

book of remembrance

burial

cortege, or funeral procession

cremation

crematorium

disperse, refers to ashes that are to be scattered

end of life planning

embalming

eulogy

garden of remembrance

headstone

hearse, unless talking about ‘Land Rover hearse’

inter or interment, refers to ashes that are to be buried in a plot

memorial book

memorial cards

memorial headstone

memorial masonry

Memories, capitalise when referring to our Memories brochure or products

nursing home

Online Memorials, capitalise when referring to our services

Order of Service

Probate

scatter ashes

Scatter Tube

third party fees

urn

woodland burial ground

funeral

Lower case unless you’re writing about one of our products, such as:

Traditional Funeral

Simple Funeral

Classic Funeral

Funeral Director

This is an exception to the rules around writing job titles, it should always be capitalised.

funeral home

Lower case, but Co-op Funeralcare Funeral Home.

funeral plan

Lower case unless you are using the title of a specific plan, such as:

Simple Funeral Plan

Bronze Funeral Plan

Silver Funeral Plan

Gold Funeral Plan

Set Cremation Plan

Set Burial Plan

Memorial Masonry Plan

Tailor made Memorial Masonry Plan

G

Group Chief Executive

H

Halloween

high street

Hyphens

Hyphens (the character you get when you type ‘-’ ) are used to link words or part of words. They show the user that there’s a connection between them, for example, ‘mother-in-law’, ‘fine-tuned’, ‘Co-op’.

Only use a hyphen when it’s needed for clarity or is crucial to your meaning. Too many hyphens can be distracting and confusing, especially when used incorrectly. The exception is Co-op or co-operative, which are always hyphenated.

I

I.e.

Do not use. Not everyone understands what it means, say ‘in other words’. For more information read this blog about contractions like this on GOV.UK.

Insurance terms

no claim discount

Always sentence case but you can say NCD after this, for example ‘Your no claim discount (NCD) is…’

written-off

Use write off in the future tense, for example ‘We will write off your car if it’s too broken’ but ‘If your car’s written-off by the garage…’

HomeRescue Plus

A home insurance optional extra product which provides help in an emergency, such as a boiler breakdown or if you’ve lost your keys. If you’re talking about generic home emergency cover, say ‘home assistance’.

life cover

Sometimes called life insurance.

The Royal London Group

For example, life cover is offered through Co-op Insurance Services and is provided, underwritten and administered by The Royal London Group.

single-trip

A type of insurance cover for a specific trip, for example ‘single-trip insurance’.

multi-trip

Travel insurance that covers you for more than one trip, for example ‘multi-trip insurance’.

MAPFRE Asistencia

For example, ‘travel insurance is offered through Co-op Insurance Services and underwritten by MAPFRE Asistencia’.

multi-pet

Insurance that covers more than one pet.

Allianz Insurance plc

For example pet insurance is offered through Co‑op Insurance Services and underwritten by Allianz Insurance plc.

black box

not smartbox.

safe driving discount

Wunelli Ltd

For example, ‘Wunelli Ltd is an independent company who we have appointed to supply and install the black box’.

internet

Common internal terms

checkout area (you can say ‘kiosk’, ‘belted till’ or ‘assisted-serve till’ if it’s relevant)

colleague

colleague member

colleague website (coop.co.uk/colleagues)

customer care line

Double Discount

Fuel for Growth

handheld terminal (HHT)

How do I

In-store bakery (ISB)

Leaders’ Weekly Update

on-shelf advertising (not ‘point of sale’)

shelf edge label (SEL)

store (not ‘shop’)

Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities, written as ‘a stronger Co-op and stronger communities’ in a sentence

support centre (not ‘head office’)

till (not ‘checkout’)

Ways of Being Co-op

#BeingCoop Awards

intranet

independent co-operatives

J

Job titles

Capitalised when talking about a specific person’s job role. For example, Mary Smith, Content Designer.

Lower case when talking about a generic job role. For example, a team leader or executive.

Funeral Director is the exception and is always capitalised.

Jargon

Use plain English and avoid jargon (specialist language) where possible. Your writing is easier to understand when you use the words your audience uses.

Try not to use:

  • Puns. If the reader doesn’t recognise something is meant to be a pun it can be confusing
  • Slang. It’s hard to understand, slang terms can be used differently across cultures and regions, and all slang can quickly fall out of use

Only use jargon or specialist terms if the reader might see or hear the term elsewhere, for example if it’s widely used in a store or over the phone. Always give a definition when you first use them. For example: ‘partners can choose to make near identical wills that leave their estate to the other person (known as ‘mirror wills’)’.

Join In

Join In is an opportunity for members to get involved with their Co-op and influence decision-making.

Use lower case when talking about members ‘joining in’.

L

Later life planning terms

Generic words like ‘my plan’, ‘set plan’ or ‘tailor made plan’ should be lower case, unless they begin the sentence or are used as a title.

Plan names should be capitalised as they are names of products, so ‘Simple Funeral Plan’ or ‘Gold Funeral Plan’.

A link should be descriptive of the place it’s taking the user. Do not use text such as ‘click here’, or anything that does not make sense when read out of context — screen readers can read link text in isolation without the surrounding content.

Link text must:

  • tell the user where it’s taking them
  • be action orientated, for example, ‘Choose an option’, ‘Find more information about the discount’, ‘Discover…’
  • tell the user if they’re leaving our site, for example, ‘For more information visit citizensadvice.org.uk’
  • use a full url if it’s clean (no symbols), short and potentially easy to remember (max one / ) for example: bbc.co.uk/sport,otherwise, if there’s a complex url, use a ‘word’ link
  • not include a title tag, this accessibility feature is not used any more as it’s not that helpful for visually impaired people

When you are linking to another page or an external site, think about your user‘s onward journey. If the page you’re linking to opens in:

  • the same window, your user may lose their place in the information flow
  • a different window, your user may find it difficult to navigate back to your site

Use this to consider how and where to position your links.

Lists

Bullet lists

Use bullet points to break up a list of things. It’s easier to read and understand.

Bullets must:

  • use a lead-in line
  • make sense running on from the lead-in line
  • use lower case at the start of the bullet
  • have only one sentence per bullet point, use commas, dashes or semicolons to expand on an item

Bullets should not:

  • be paragraphs masquerading as a list for a visual effect
  • use a full stop after the last bullet point
  • include ‘or’ or an ‘and’ after the bullets

Example The meeting agenda will be:

  • an overview of the last month
  • a presentation
  • a special announcement

Numbered lists

Use a numbered list for a logical sequence of things, like a series of tasks that must be done in a certain order. They do not need a lead-in line and should be complete sentences that start with a capital letter and end with a full stop.

Example How to put your shoes on:

  1. Put on socks.
  2. Put on shoes.
  3. Tie laces.

local causes

Local Community Fund

local community

log in

People log in to websites, they do not log on. If they can use a website without logging in, say ‘visit the website’.

M

Measurements

sq m, sq ft, cm, m, km Abbreviate measurements and use metric where possible. Do not abbreviate imperial measurements, use ‘miles’ or ‘inches’ for example.

membership

Use a capital M when referencing Co-op Membership or Co-op Members, but lowercase everywhere else.

Co-op Membership

Co-op Membership card

membership

membership card

membership card number

temporary card

membership number

membership account

Co-op Member

member

colleague member

partner member

share of profits

co-owner

5% back

1% for your community

1% for your local cause

Money

Use the £ symbol, for example £75.

Currencies are lower case.

Write out pence in full, so ‘calls will cost 4 pence per minute from a landline’.

Do not use decimals unless pence are included, so £75.50 but not £75.00.

Check the advice about numbers for amounts over 1,000.

N

Numbers

Write out ‘one’ in full, then use numerals for all other numbers. If a sentence starts with a number, you should spell it out. For example, ‘Thirty-four sentences started with a number’.

Abbreviate millions and billions when you’re writing about money, so ‘£23m’ or ‘£4bn’.

A billion is a thousand million.

When you’re not talking about money, spell out millions and billions, so ‘2 billion people’.

Use commas for numbers over 999, so 1,000 or 5,000,000.

Plurals do not need apostrophes, so write ‘70s’ or ‘1,000s’ not ‘70’s’ or ‘1,000’s’.

Write fractions out in full, so ‘half’ or ‘three quarters’, except in recipes where you should use numbers such as ‘½ tsp’.

Write out first, second and so on. Spell out ‘first’ to ‘ninth’. After that use 10th, 11th and so on. But, write dates as 10 January 2017.

Phone numbers

Use the BT code and split numbers as follows 0161 123 4567. For London numbers the split is 020 7123 4567.

Mobile numbers are split 07765 123 456. You must include information about call charges and opening times if you mention a mobile number.

O

Oven temperatures

Listed as follows: 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4 No need to convert to Fahrenheit, except on food packaging where it can be shown if a supplier provides it.

P

%

Use % instead of ‘percent’ or ‘per cent’, it’s easier to read and understand.

Pronouns

When talking about Co-op, use ‘we’ or ‘our’, and when talking to a member or customer, use ‘you’ and ‘your’.

Property

The Property team is responsible for buying, selling and looking after the Co-op’s 6,000 buildings across the UK. It’s not called Estates or Estates Services any more.

Common property terms

Commercial property

For trading businesses like food stores, funeral homes, depots and offices.

Residential property

Where people live, like flats and houses.

Facilities Management (FM)

Think about shortening this to ‘facilities’ if it’s what someone would say in natural speech.

National Operations Centre (NOC)

The outsourced call centre that handles all facilities management enquiries. Think about saying ‘call facilities’ for clarity.

Protected designation of origin (PDO)

The official names of certain products are protected and they must be capitalised in the correct way. For example Melton Mowbray pork pies and Cornish pasties.

R

Rochdale Pioneers

Royal London

We put all of the money from each funeral plan into an individual whole of life insurance policy with Royal London. When we say Royal London, this is The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited.

S

seasons

Do not capitalise winter, spring, summer or autumn.

serving suggestion

Slashes /

Do not use forward slashes except in web addresses. They make content harder to read. Use ‘or’ instead.

Staff

We do not call people who work at Co-op ‘staff’. Internally, we use ‘colleague’ and if we’re talking to customers we use ‘team member’ or ‘member of our team’.

Stores

Call the places where we sell our products ‘stores’, not ‘shops’.

T

Time

Use the 12 hour clock, so ‘9am to 5pm’. If you need to include the minutes, write ‘9.15am’.

Use ‘midday’ rather than noon, 12noon or 12pm. Use ‘midnight’ and not ‘12am’. But be careful that it’s not misleading.

For example, if you said: ‘Please complete and send your application form by 6 July 2018, at midnight’

Then your user might wonder if you meant ‘ 6 July 2018, 11.59pm’ or ‘5 July 2018, 11.59pm’

To avoid this confusion, consider using ‘11.59pm’ where possible.

It’s not necessary to specify time zones, such as ‘1pm GMT’.

Titles

Titles of pages and sub-headers should:

  • be sentence case
  • be unique, clear and descriptive
  • be front-loaded with key words if possible — people tend to scan the first couple of words only
  • use words you know your users actually use
  • be active where possible, ‘Apply for…’, ‘Report…’, ‘Find…’
  • not use acronyms unless they are well-known, like EU or BBC

W

Watchout words

When describing food, avoid the following words and phrases, unless you can qualify them:

Craft

Farm fresh

New (unless the product really is new)

Natural

Healthy/Healthier

Homegrown

Local (can be used if the product is made within 30 miles)

Lower price (unless you have a higher price for comparison)

Reduced fat

Wholesome

Authentic

Hand made

Original

Fresh

Traditional

Websites

Do not use the prefix ‘http://www.’ when writing a website address. For example, write coop.co.uk

Will/will

Capitalise when talking about a specific product, lower case when speaking generally about wills.