editing government documents

Editing Government Documents and Publications in Australia

Whether you are working in a government department or submitting a proposal to a government body, following the accepted standards for editing government documents and publications will help you maintain clarity and consistency.

For government departments in Australia, the Style manual for authors, editors and printers is the key publication that provides guidance for anyone who needs to prepare material for publication. It covers the textual, structural and design aspects of creating and editing government documents and publications.

The main sections of the 550-page Style manual include:

  • Part 1 – Planning the communication
  • Part 2 – Writing and editing
  • Part 3 – Designing and illustrating
  • Part 4 – Legal and compliance aspects of publishing
  • Part 5 – Producing and evaluating the product.

If you are editing government documents and publications, Part 2 is the most relevant. It covers the basics for clear and consistent communication. The sections of this part include:

  • Structuring documents for readers
  • Effective and inclusive language
  • Grammar
  • Spelling and word punctuation
  • Sentence punctuation
  • Capital letters
  • Textual contrast
  • Shortened forms
  • Numbers and measurement
  • Methods of citation
  • The components of a publication
  • Editing and proofreading
  • Indexing.

You can purchase the Style manual for authors, editors and printers at most major bookstores or through online booksellers. Additional information on the publication can be found at www.australia.gov.au/about-government/publications/style-manual.

Editing government documents at the state or local level

Most state and local governments base their writing and editing styles on the Style manual for authors, editors and printers, but include additions and exceptions. For example, the Victoria Department of Human Services writing style guide states: “‘DHS’ is not acceptable in departmental documents. Spell out ‘Department of Human Services’ in full, or use ‘the department’”.

The Department of Human Services writing_style_guide is a good example of what’s typically included in a government or corporate style manual.

If you are writing or editing documents or publications for a state or local government department, ask if they have a house style guide or if they use the Style manual for authors, editors and printers as their default guide.