Style guide for writers

Understand the WorkSafe style and use these guidelines to check that your writing is on brand.


About this style guide

In most cases WorkSafe follows the GOV.AU style guide for website content, with a few minor differences. The GOV.AU guide provides the most up to date information about accessibility and inclusivity, and writing for search engines - it's essential that you read and understand this.

WorkSafe's website administrators use this style guide to proof content before it's published. It's important that you follow the rules outlined inside it.

If there's anything that you can't find in the WorkSafe style guide, check the GOV.AU style guide.

WorkSafe tone

Persona: The advisor

We’re not just a regulator. We provide useful advice and information for workers and employers to take notice of and act on. Our conduct is professional and our expertise is respected. We celebrate great initiatives, but we’re direct and authoritative when the topic is serious.

Tone of voice

The words you choose and the way you use them is one of the most important brand elements at your disposal. We use four principles to guide the way our brand speaks.


We avoid jargon and keep things concise. Workplace safety can be complex so everything we say should be said with simplicity and clarity.


We are inclusive for all Victorians. When we speak we show that we’re open-minded and respectful. 


We’re sincere in our intention and serious in our conviction. What we say impacts lives. We’re always honest, upfront and never misleading or sensationalist.


We write with authority and we’re confident that our messages are well founded and need to be heard.


Active voice

Use the active voice. It requires fewer words, is less ambiguous and puts the focus of the sentence on its first component, eg:

  • Use adjustable height trolleys when putting stock out.
  • When putting stock out, adjustable height trolleys should be used to move items.

Reading age

Aim for year 6 (age 12) reading level. Readability helps everyone, even people with specialist knowledge. When readability is good, people understand information and complete tasks more easily.

You can test reading age with readability tools in Microsoft Word or using Hemingway Editor.

However, reading age is only one measure of readability. Balance it with things like comprehension, sense and findability. Sometimes technical words are better, if your users know them. Test your content with real users to ensure they understand the words you’ve chosen.


Address the reader as 'you' where possible, eg 'you can contact WorkSafe by phone and email.'

Format and structure

Bold, italics and underline

Avoid using bolditalics or underline in online text.

Screen readers interpret italics in different ways and readers with dyslexia can find italics very difficult to read.

In the past it was common to use italics for these purposes, but you should now use Title Case instead:

  • book titles, newspapers, periodicals and publications
  • the names of films, plays, songs, television and radio programs

Underlined words are used to signify an inline link on websites. They shouldn't be used for any other purpose because it's confusing for readers.

As a side note, remember that WorkSafe doesn't use inline links on its websites - see links.


Keep capital letters to a minimum, because they slow down reading online. Never use block capitals for emphasis. PEOPLE MIGHT THINK YOU’RE SHOUTING.

Sentence case

Sentence case means you capitalise only the first word. Use sentence case for headings and links.

  • How to make a claim
  • Incident notification form

Title case

Use title case for the specific titles of laws, publications, departments and programs. Title case means you capitalise all the important words in a title.

  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • WorkSafe Incentive Scheme for Employers

Lower case

Use lower case for everything else. This includes names of positions and groups when you’re referring to them in general rather than to a specific one.

  • WorkSafe agent
  • designated work group
  • health and safety representative
  • return to work coordinator


Headings and subheadings help a reader to scan for the information they need.

Make headings short. Start with the most important words (we call this frontloading). That way the user may not need to read the whole heading to know if they're in the right place.

All headings and subheadings should:

  • be 60 characters or less
  • use active voice
  • be a single sentence
  • be unique, clear and descriptive
  • be optimised for search
  • not contain dashes or slashes
  • not have a full stop at the end

Avoid using questions in headings:

  • Employer responsibilities
  • What are an employer’s responsibilities?

Always use headings and subheadings in the correct structure.

The H1 (main) heading or page title is the single most important piece of information on your page. Headings must always follow the correct semantic sequence - never skip a level (eg going directly from H2 to H4 is not semantically correct):

  1. H1 for page title
  2. H2 for second level headings
  3. H3 for third level headings (child of H2)
  4. H4 for fourth level headings (child of H3)
  5. H5 for fifth level headings (child of H4)


Linking to other pages and documents is a great way to keep your content concise and to reduce duplicate information.

We don't use inline links on WorkSafe's websites to link to web pages. This is what an inline link looks like.

Inline links are static and hardcoded into a page. They break easily and often, and cause confusion for some readers - it's the old way to create links between pages. For web page links, there is a better way to achieve the same goal. For more information see page layout guide.

The only exceptions are email addresses and phone numbers.

Email addresses

Write email addresses in full, lower case and as active inline links, eg [email protected].

Phone numbers

Write phone numbers as active inline links, eg 1800 136 089. Don't use brackets in phone numbers when the number includes an area code.


Bullet points (or unordered lists)

Bullet points break up long sentences and make it easier for people to scan content. Use bullet points when the sequence doesn't matter.

If the list is very long, consider breaking it into more than one list and grouping points. Avoid multi-level lists. Restructure the content instead.

This website uses three types of bullet point lists based on the purpose of the content:

  • Dot points for unordered lists. Sometimes black, sometimes yellow.
  • Ticks to symbolise approval or that something is 'right'.
  • Crosses to symbolise disapproval or that something is 'wrong'.

Numbered lists (or ordered lists)

Numbered lists also break up long sentences and make it easier for people to step through a process. Use numbered lists for sequences.

If the list is very long, consider breaking it into more than one list and grouping points. Avoid multi-level lists. Restructure the content instead.

List structure and punctuation

Keep your list items consistent, to aid easy understanding. They should have a parallel structure — for example, all start with a verb. Aim to make them similar lengths.

The lead-in text ends with a colon. If you use a heading instead, there's no colon.

If the list items are sentence fragments, start them with lower case, and don't use end punctuation - not even after the last item.

Common sources of risk include:

  • lack of storage
  • clutter that makes access and movement difficult
  • uneven floor surfaces

If the list items are full sentences, use a capital letter to start and punctuation at the end.

How to move a person up and down the bed

  1. Position slide sheets under the person.
  2. Each worker transfers weight from 1 foot to the other while pulling the top sheet, sliding the person up the bed.
  3. Remove the slide sheets.


Use words for nine and below. Use numerals for 10 and above, eg one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, and 12 etc.

For numbers over 999 - insert a comma after every third digit, eg 4,367,521.

Spell out common fractions, such as one-half.

Use a 0 where there's no digit before the decimal point, eg 0.25 not .25.

Use '500 to 900' and not '500–900' (except in tables).

In tables, use figures throughout and use the % sign.

For money only use decimals when cents are included, eg $75.50 not $75.00.

Use a colon and lower case am/pm for time, eg 5:30pm.

Use 'to' in time ranges – not hyphens, en rules, en dashes or em dashes, eg 10am to 11am (not 10–11am).

Use numbers in dates without the suffix, eg 29 June (not 29th June).


Be careful with punctuation in digital content — it can slow down reading. You need just enough to make meaning clear.

Ampersand (&)

Use 'and' rather than '&'.


Used to indicate a missing letter or letters (can't, we'd) or a possessive (David's book).

See how the use of an apostrophe changes the meaning, eg:

  • my sister's friend’s books (refers to one sister and her friend).
  • my sister's friends' books (one sister with lots of friends).
  • my sisters' friend's books (more than one sister, and their friend).
  • my sisters' friends' books (more than one sister, and their friends).

Place names involving possessives are written without apostrophes, eg Wilsons Promontory and Arthurs Seat.

There is no apostrophe in full year (plural) dates, eg 1960s or 1800s not 1960's or 1800's.

Use an apostrophe to replace the missing prefix from decades in the twentieth century, eg the '90s.


Use round brackets to signify additional information that is not essential to the meaning of a sentence.

Acronyms, definitions or clarifications can be enclosed in round brackets, eg 'injuries commonly occur when lifting objects (eg boxes, laundry, kitchen or shopping supplies)'.

The only acceptable use of [square brackets] is for explanatory notes in reported speech, eg 'the tractor rolled over at an orchard near Mildura [north-west Victoria].'

Do not use <angle brackets> or {braces} when writing for the web.

Colon (:) and semicolon (;)

Avoid semicolons. If your sentence needs a semicolon, it’s better to break it into two sentences.

Use a colon to lead in to a bullet list or a block quote. If you need a colon to introduce a list in a sentence, consider using bullet points.

Comma (,)

Commas can aid clarity by creating a natural pause in a sentence.

  • If the claim is rejected, you can ask for a review.
  • The surface should be firm, level and non-slip.

If your sentence needs several commas to make sense, it's time to rewrite. Split it into more sentences, or use a bullet point list.

Don't place a comma between a subject and its verb, eg:

  • Workers with a licence that expires before the work begins have to apply for a renewal
  • Workers with a licence, that expires before the work begins, have to apply for a licence renewal.

Don't use one comma when there should be a pair, eg:

  • The WorkSafe Awards, held in October each year, will be at Crown Casino
  • The WorkSafe Awards, held in October each year will be at Crown Casino.


WorkSafe's style is day/month/year, eg 9 March 2020. There is no comma between the month and year.

Use numbers in dates without the suffix, eg 29 June 2020 (not 29th June).

If you include the day of the week, separate it with a comma, eg Monday, 29 June 2020.

Use 'to' in date ranges - not hyphens, en rules, en dashes or em dashes, eg:

  • Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (put different days on a new line)
  • 10 November to 21 December

Ellipsis points

Use a space before and after ellipses, and three dots (with no spaces between them), in copy and headlines, eg 'She didn’t want to go there ...'

Use ellipsis points to show an omission of words in quotes, but be careful you don't change the meaning or add bias, eg 'what happened here today ... should not be acceptable to anyone' – WorkSafe

The use of ellipsis points to indicate incompleteness or indecision should only be used in less formal documents.

Exclamation mark (!)

Avoid exclamation marks. They generally don't fit with our voice and tone. They may occasionally be appropriate in specific campaigns or marketing material.

Full stop (.)

Use a full stop to end a full sentence. Don't use a full stop:

  • after a sentence fragment (for example, a caption or bullet point that's not a full sentence)
  • in abbreviations, acronyms or contractions

Hyphens and dashes

Some nouns are hyphenated — check the Macquarie Dictionary for guidance.

Use a hyphen to join words as a compound adjective. Don't hyphenate if the first word of the compound is an adjective ending in '-ly'.

  • height-adjustable chair
  • poorly designed equipment

Don't use en dashes (–) for number spans. Use 'to' instead.

  • 27 to 29 November

Use a spaced em dash ( — ) to break up a sentence.

  • Be careful with punctuation in digital content — it can slow down reading.

Oxford comma

Don't use an Oxford comma — that's a comma before the last 'and' or 'or' in a sentence.

Quotation marks (' ' and " ")

Use straight quotes (' ') not curly quotes (‘ ’). Curly quotes aren't 'wrong' but they're written in HTML as '&lsquo;' whereas straight quotes are written in HTML as '. Using straight quotes ensures consistency.

Use single quotation marks to quote direct speech or to emphasise an expression.

  • The CEO said, 'This should never happen.'
  • We call this approach 'constructive compliance'.

Only use double quotations marks for a quote within a quote.


Use only one space after a full stop, not two.


Capitalise people's position titles when using with their name. If you're just referring to the position, don't capitalise.

  • WorkSafe's Chief Executive, Colin Radford
  • WorkSafe's chief executive said...

Inclusive language

We recommend you read the GOV.AU guide to accessibility and inclusivity - it's a more comprehensive resource.

Inclusivity basics

Speak to the person in plain English without jargon. Don't speak to their difference.

This avoids getting caught up in semantics and is respectful of:

  • disability
  • cultural differences
  • differences in socioeconomic background
  • differences in educational levels and systems
  • generational differences
  • gender roles
  • perceptions of social and support concepts
  • political impacts on life events
  • pre and post effects of wars
  • religious affiliations
  • values or philosophical differences.

Some points to remember:

  • Only mention sex, age or ethnicity if it's relevant.
  • Don't use stereotyped examples such as 'girls on reception' or 'boys on the building site'.
  • The term 'Australian' refers to all citizens of Australia, regardless of their country of birth or ethnic background.
  • Don't use the term 'victim' or 'sufferer' (eg people with cancer not cancer sufferers). Avoid the word suffered when referring to an incident (eg say a person was hurt instead of a person suffered an injury).

Avoid language that discriminates, stereotypes or denigrates people on the basis of their sex, age, race, marital status, ethnicity, linguistic or religious background.

Don't use

people with disability

people with a disability, disabled or handicapped people

people with intellectual disability

intellectually disabled

people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment

unable to hear

people who are blind or have a vision impairment

unable to see

First Australians or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (note the plural)

ATSI, Aborigines or Aboriginals

older people, older workers or seniors

pensioners, old-age pensioners or the aged

young people or young workers

youth or juveniles

Shortened words

Shortened word forms are not always easier to understand than the full words. Prioritise ease of understanding over length.


Use an abbreviation only if it's clearer or more common than the spelled-out form.

  • number, professor, minutes
  • no, prof, mins

Abbreviations don't need full stops at the end.

Avoid the Latin abbreviations eg, etc, ie. People may not understand them, and screen readers sometimes don't read them properly. If you are short of space in a table, it's OK to use 'eg'.


The first time you use an acronym, give the full name followed by the acronym in brackets. Then use the acronym. If the acronym is more widely understood than what its stands for, only use the acronym.

  • Qantas
  • ABC

Ask yourself if using an acronym helps the user. For example, if it's only used once or twice on a page and isn't a common acronym, it may be better just to use the full form.

Don't use full stops in acronyms. See WorkSafe words and spelling.


Contractions can help create an approachable and conversational tone. It's fine to use common contractions in most places on the website.

  • It's easy to register.
  • If you can't find the form, call our advisory service.

Always think about the context, readability and flow of the text. Avoid contractions where:

  • they interrupt the flow
  • they might be misunderstood or hard to read, eg 'I didn't know that I shouldn't do that'
  • the full words convey meaning more forcefully, eg 'Employers must not give false information'

WorkSafe words and spelling

WorkSafe words

Use WorkSafe terms with care. WorkSafe uses many words and phrases with special or technical meanings. Often they come straight from the laws we administer. While we understand them well, our users may not.

Always choose the clearest option for your audience and purpose. Ask yourself if the words are necessary in the context you're writing for and test them with users.

eg, ie, etc

Minimise the use of eg, ie and etc. When you must use them, they are lower case, no full stop.

Government words

  • Chairperson. Not chairman or chairwoman. Lower case in text. Upper case in titles, eg John Merritt, Chairperson, WorkSafe.
  • Coalition. Lower case, eg the coalition.
  • Council. Lower case in text. Upper case in titles, eg Hume City Council.
  • Government. Lower case, eg Victorian government, government offices.
  • Law. Lower case, eg the law.
  • Opposition. Lower case, eg the opposition, opposition leader.
  • Parliament and derivatives. Title case, eg Parliamentary committees.
  • Premier. Title case, eg Premier Daniel Andrews, the Premier.
  • Prime Minister. Title case, eg Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister.

WorkSafe acronyms

  • authorised representatives of a registered employee organisation (ARREO)
  • designated work group (DWG)
  • freedom of information (FOI)
  • health and safety committee (HSC)
  • health and safety representative (HSR)
  • major hazard facility (MHF)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee (OHSAC)
  • personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • pre-injury average weekly earnings (PIAWE)
  • provisional improvement notice (PIN)
  • occupational health and safety (OHS)
  • return to work (RTW)

WorkSafe spelling list

We use Australian spelling. If you can't find what you need here, check the Macquarie Dictionary.

  • adviser
  • colour
  • -ise (for example 'prioritise', 'specialise', not 'prioritize' or 'specialize')
  • licence (as a noun) and license (as a verb)
  • memorandum of understanding (lower case)
  • practice (as a noun) and practise (as a verb)
  • program (unless 'programme' is part of a title)

WorkSafe or WorkSafe Victoria

When referring to WorkSafe in web page content on this website, use 'WorkSafe' not 'WorkSafe Victoria'.

When referring to the WorkSafe website, simply use 'this website'.

Note: Different rules apply in other contexts, eg always use 'WorkSafe Victoria' in the first instance, and 'WorkSafe' in the following instances in publications.

Legislation and publications

Use title case and no italics for names of laws and publications. This is different from the style used in print, because it's easier to read online.

act, the act

Lower case, eg act, the act.

Only use title case when using the full title, eg Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

Never use italics.


The first time you mention a piece of legislation give the full title and year, like this:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013
  • Equipment (Public Safety) Regulations 2017

Use title case, no comma before the date and no italics.

After the first mention use 'the Act' or a short form of the title. Give this in brackets after the full title.

  • Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (WIRC Act)

General references to acts and regulations are lower case.

  • Read about health and safety acts and regulations.

When citing sections of an act, use lower case for section and no space between numbers.

  • section 8(2) of the OHS Act states...


For publication titles, WorkSafe style varies slightly from the GOV.AU content guide.

GOV.AU recommends using title case for publications such as books, films and articles.

But the WorkSafe website currently has document landing pages for over 600 WorkSafe publications. Our goal is always to make it easy for people to read the titles in context.

  • Use sentence case for landing page titles of WorkSafe guidance and other publications to make them easy to scan across collections of cards and search results.
  • When you refer to a document in the body text on a web page, use title case so the reader can distinguish it from the surrounding text.

A note about FAQs

It can be tempting to write a list of [assumed] frequently asked questions, but as a rule we don't use FAQs on WorkSafe's websites.

The truth is that FAQs are questions that are seldom asked. They're a lazy way to communicate. If you write content by starting with users' needs, you'll answer their questions in context.

In the unlikely event that you have compelling evidence to prove that there is a genuine user need that can only be solved with FAQs you may be given an exemption. Hint: Not having enough time to write proper content is not a valid reason.

Next steps

Now that you've mastered the WorkSafe style you're ready to write web content. The website administrators will use the correct components and layout to meet the needs of your content, but you might like to understand the design system.

Interface design