Guiding principles for content

We offer these principles as a lean, scalable alternative to exhaustive content guidelines.

We believe that great content starts with a great content strategy—a framework for making informed, intentional choices about our content approach.

Further, we believe that great content strategy requires a solid foundation of systems design—the platforms that house our web framework, and the people who collaborate to build and support the platforms and their content. This foundation of business-focused systems design supports user-focused content design.

Style

For consistency across all Bank content—print or digital—this design system defers to Bank style on matters such as word choice, spelling, and grammar.

Language use

Voice and tone

In time, this design system may be used to document how we vary voice and tone by content type, to best meet the needs and expectations of its audience. For now, though, we defer to Bank style.

Readability

We consider reading levels based on content types for our varied audience. For this, we defer to Bank style.

Text

Because web users are typically seeking help with a task, and don’t have the time to read materials in depth, we strive to make our text scannable. As a website author, here's how you can help.

See also: Typography

Structure with headings

  • Create a scannable story with descriptive headings that are just short enough to be clear.
  • Front-load the most important verb or noun; prioritize clarity over parallelism.
  • Nest headings to provide a mental map of the content.

Refer to Bank style for titles and headings styles.

Reduce word count

  • Focus each section to support its heading.
  • Don’t use multiple words ("at this very point in time") when one will do ("now").
  • Avoid weak verbs:
    • Rewrite "be"-verb constructions (such as "it is" and "there are").
    • Instead of adding an adverb to strengthen a verb, find a stronger verb.

Shorten paragraphs

  • Break up long paragraphs and sentences. Limit each to one main point.
  • Lead with the most important concept, and cut the inessential.
  • Use plain language and short words.

List related ideas

  • Watch for lengthy paragraphs and sentences that could be converted to lists:
    • bulleted list—for a series of items or options in no particular order
    • numbered list—for a series of steps, typically marked by sequencing words (first, second, third)
  • Create parallel list items—all verbs or all nouns—and limit each item to one idea.
  • When applying links to a list item, choose specific text rather than linking the whole item.

Emphasize what's key

  • Front-load the most important thing (noun) or action (verb).
  • Use bold sparingly, and use italics only where required by Bank style.
  • Use descriptive links (not “click here” text) within the main body of content (not grouped as “related links”).

Alternative text

Text added to meaningful images meant to be converted to synthetic voice or braille by assisted devices.

  • Be descriptive and specific.
  • Consider the context of the image.
  • Relate to the rest of the content.
  • Start with a capital letter.
  • End with a period.
  • Don’t include words like “in this image” or “figure shows”.
  • Limit length to 30-50 words otherwise the length becomes cumbersome for the listener.

For decorative images, leave the alt parameter blank (i.e., alt="").