diamond geezer

 Saturday, April 04, 2015

Last week I asked why TfL had started calling the capital the Capital.

And the answer is because that's what it says in their style guide. We still don't quite know the rationale, nor how recently this changed, but here it is in black and white.

CapitalUse 'Capital' (with an upper case C) when referring specifically to London

Use lower case when referring to other capital cities

Amusingly the very next entry in the style guide says this...

capital lettersAvoid where possible as it can imply shouting

...but presumably the first entry trumps the second in this case.

As well as being an essential read for TfL's communicators, the style guide has also been shared with the public deep in the uncharted recesses of the TfL website.

This guide explains when and how to use abbreviations, punctuation, numbers, branding, and terms related to equality and inclusion. It indicates which words should be favoured or avoided, as well as when to use upper or lower case.

When a word is listed without explanation, it is there to show spelling. Accepted abbreviations are given in brackets.

Everything we produce should be written using plain English.

The style guide is thoughtful and detailed, in line with generally accepted best practice.

fewer'Fewer' is used for countable nouns and means smaller in number: fewer coins; fewer passengers; fewer tickets

Do not confuse with less, which is used with singular nouns or quantity: less money; less time; less fat
that/whichGenerally, 'that' defines while 'which' informs: This is the house that Jack built; this house, which Jack built, is now falling down

Sometimes it's all about being politically correct, to avoid publishing something inappropriate.

disabilityUse positive language about disability, avoiding outdated terms that stereotype or stigmatise. Do not use 'cripple', 'handicapped' or 'wheelchair-bound' and avoid referring to people as nouns (eg 'the disabled') or as suffering from, or afflicted by, a condition
older peopleRefer to older people rather than elderly people
sexualityInclude references to sexuality only when it is essential. The words 'gay', 'bisexual' and 'transgendered' should not be used as nouns, but adjectives: 'gay people' rather than 'gays'; a 'bisexual man' rather than a 'bisexual'. The term 'lesbian' is an exception as it can be used as a noun or adjective

Note: Do not use the term 'homosexual' as it is a medical term and so considered inappropriate
war(s)Avoid mentioning wars in communications where possible. For example, rather than referring to 'post World War II' instead write 'since the late 1940s' or 'for generations'

Several of the entries are TfL-specific, to ensure terminology is used in the correct way.

additional spaceShould only be used when referring to a new feature, for example more space on new trains. This should not be used as a general term when referring to passenger benefits as the extra room created will be absorbed by increased demand and therefore won't be noticeable
customersRefer to 'customers' rather than 'passengers'
more accessibleAn improvement to an asset that makes it easier for customers to use
reduced serviceWhere we offer a service that is noticeably less than normal (could apply to train frequency or escalators/lifts in operation)
Tube'The Tube' (with a capital T) is acceptable colloquial shorthand for the London Underground
UndergroundThe Underground' (with a capital U) is acceptable colloquial shorthand for London Underground

This one flies in the face of Plain English, but until someone rebrands the individual Overground lines we're stuck with this gobbledegook.

London OvergroundUse 'London Overground'. Do not refer to as 'Overground'

• 'North London line' is now 'Overground Richmond/Clapham Junction - Stratford'
• 'West London line' is now 'Overground Willesden Junction - Clapham Junction'
• 'DC line/Watford Euston DC' is now 'Overground Watford Junction - Euston'
• 'Gospel Oak to Barking (GOB)' is now 'Overground Gospel Oak - Barking'
• 'East London line' is now 'Overground Dalston/Highbury & Islington - West Croydon/Crystal Palace/New Cross'

Pesky local punctuation is addressed.

Earl's Court stationUnlike the area or the exhibition centre, the Tube station has an apostrophe
Earls CourtUnlike the Tube station, neither the area nor the exhibition centre have an apostrophe
Elephant & Castle station Unlike the area, the Tube station has an ampersand (&)
Elephant and CastleUnlike the Tube station, the area does not have an ampersand (&)

Online exception: Use the ampersand (&) for both station and area

Where external suppliers have to be endorsed, the correct terminology is essential.

Barclays Cycle HireDo not use. See Santander Cycles
Barclays Cycle SuperhighwaysDo not use. See Cycle Superhighways
Emirates Air LineSponsored by Emirates Airline
Santander CyclesMust be written in full and capitalised on first mention. After that, 'cycle hire scheme' and 'scheme' and acceptable

Santander Cycles is singular. Use 'Santander Cycles is...', not 'Santander Cycles are...'

A trade secret is revealed.

italicsWe do not use italics in print or online

And finally, here's TfL's communications philosophy in three bullet points.

toneEvery journey a customer makes matters to them - so it should matter to us. Your communications should adopt a tone that shows we care about improving people's experiences on our network. For example:

• When talking about improvements, be proud of what we're doing. When referring to works that are under way and causing disruption for passengers, your tone should be serious
• If we're celebrating our successes, write in an upbeat style
• When writing about consultations, be open and honest. Show that we care about people's views

So now you know.


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