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.


For consistency across all Bank content—print or digital—this design system defers to the Bank of Canada Style Guide (available to Bank employees only) 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 of Canada Style Guide (available to Bank employees only).


We consider reading levels based on content types for our varied audience. For this, we defer to the Bank of Canada Style Guide.


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.
  • Sentence case headers unless proper nouns.

Refer to the Bank of Canada Style Guide 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.

See also the Bank of Canada Style Guide for editorial guidelines on lists.

Emphasize what's key

  • Front-load the most important thing (noun) or action (verb).
  • Use bolding—and never underlining—to highlight key words or phrases in a sentence, but preferably not the entire sentence.
  • Use italics only:
    • where required by Bank style—for example, for publication titles
    • when distinguishing between two different types of emphasis in a single piece—for example, bolding for terms vs. italics for key phrases
    • when indicating a shift in tone, particularly in plain-language writing—for example, “this ideally looks like ABC, but it actually looks more like XYZ”


  • Use descriptive links, not “click here.”
  • Avoid placing links in the middle of a sentence.
  • Link a complete sentence only for short calls to action such as “Register now” or “Read the full speech.”
  • Link key words or key phrases only, choosing different words or phrases for each link.
  • Avoid groups of “related links.”

Text for images

You can add any of the following text to images in order of importance:

  1. Alt text
  2. Caption
  3. Title
Follow the file naming convention guidelines. If images are properly named in the Media Library, the title attribute may not be necessary.

Alt text

Add alt text to make the content and function of images accessible. Alt text is converted to synthetic voice or braille by assisted devices, and browsers display it when users choose not to view images.

  • Be descriptive and specific.
  • Be objective when describing physical appearances or actions. Do not describe a person’s ethnicity if it is not relevant to the content.
  • Consider the context of the image.
  • Relate to the rest of the content.
  • Start with a capital letter.
  • End with a period to create a pause.
  • If necessary, add commas to avoid words running together.
  • Avoid using symbols; some screen readers cannot parse them.
  • Don’t include words like “in this image” or “figure shows”.
  • Aim for between 30 and 50 words.

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

See also: Accessibility guidelines


Add a photo caption to meaningful images to provide important information about them in greater detail than in the alt text attribute. Like the alt text, the caption is normally read out by assisted devices unless the settings have been disabled.

  • Be detailed but concise.
  • Be objective when describing physical appearances or actions.
  • Include: the object, the action and the context.
  • Avoid repeating information that is covered in the rest of the of content.
  • List the source and photo credit if there are any.
  • Ideally, please use complete sentences.
  • Aim for between 50 and 80 words.


Use a title attribute to add complementary information to images. Unlike alt text, the image title doesn't help with search optimization nor is it meant to be used as a primary accessibility tool. Like tooltips, it is typically only available on mouseover on certain browsers.

  • Reserve important information for the alt text attribute and the photo caption.
  • For portraits or headshots: use the person's name as the title.
  • For descriptive images: use a condensed version of the alt text.
  • Limit to five words.

If the title attribute is left blank (i.e., title=""), the image’s file name from the Media Library will be used as the default.

Descriptions for figures

  • Make the first sentence a title.
    • For example, “Description: Transmission channels of a global repricing risk”
  • Be detailed but concise.
  • Focus on the figure’s function and how it relates to the content.
  • Avoid repeating information that is covered in the rest of the of content.
  • Apply the same writing style as the rest of the text.
  • Mention colour if meaningful or used in the content. To aid the visually impaired and assisted technology users, tie the colours to their meaning.

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