The Digital Transformation Agency and Ethos CRS have signed a contract to begin working on a new digital version of the Commonwealth government’s official Style Manual, which was last updated in 2002.
The manual is the government’s authoritative source of guidance on writing and editing. The new edition will be digital, which the DTA describes as a “milestone”. It will reflect contemporary government usage, according to the DTA, and will feature new sections on content design and digital media.
Stage one of the project commenced this month, during which Ethos and the DTA began collaborating to scope out the detail and digital architecture of the new guide.
Ethos hopes to produce the definitive digital style manual that sets a new authoritative standard, says CEO, Chas Savage.
He says the objective of the project is to refresh and define government style and provide comprehensive advice on whole-of-government standards and publishing requirements.
“But this project is not just about commas or fonts or formatting,” he says.
“It is important because clear writing by government is important. People should be able to understand their rights and responsibilities, how they can access services and how they can meet obligations. Our objective is to make documents clearer and the lives of readers easier.”
He says the current 2002 edition is “silent on the style conventions that enable the creation and use of digital content”.
The DTA chose Ethos as the new content partner after approaching the market in February.
The Canberra-based specialist company has experience in government communications, and has previously partnered with the Australian National University, the Australian National Dictionary Centre and the Oxford University Press.
Savage says the Ethos team has the skills to produce a comprehensive, practical and authoritative manual based on long experience of training government employees to write clearly.
“This team understands the principles that underpin the work of drafting clear documents and we know what makes government documents comprehensive, practical and authoritative,” he says.
The DTA has been working on the new Style Manual since 2017, conducting user research and building prototypes. An update has been well overdue.
The first Style Manual was published in 1966 — the same year the metric system was introduced in Australia — and used spellings such as ‘kilogramme’.
The seventh edition is planned to be released in 2020.
Head to the DTA’s website for updates or to take part in user research.