Use service-oriented language
We want to make sure that people living in- or visiting- Austin can understand what’s on the City’s website. Moving forward, we want to take a people- and service-oriented approach to speak to residents.
Service-oriented language is a way of addressing the services available to residents, instead of the departments providing the services.
If service-oriented language focuses on the services available to the residents, then it makes sense that department-oriented language sheds light on the department providing the services.
While that is important, we’ve found that most websites with department-oriented language are not easy for residents to understand, and typically include a lot of jargon and acronyms.
As a CCCE, you’ll need to write ACPFA and provide AMSARs with the content they need to complete GSR’s to be a SCRTD. JK! (just kidding)
Was that confusing? Can you imagine being an Austin resident trying to understand City acronyms? With service-oriented language, we must focus on writing for the people, not our departments.
Using service-oriented language makes it easy for residents to find out what they need to know, and it’s in the details:
  • Not using acronyms for City services or departments,
  • Making it easy for residents to view a webpage on their mobile device,
  • Writing in an approachable voice and tone,
  • Keeping the reading level below 8th grade
  • Breaking blocks of written content up into smaller chunks,
  • Implementing an intuitive menu/navigation
There are two columns of text. The title of the first column is: Department-Oriented Language. The first bullet point reads Boards and Commissions. The second bullet point reads, Certification for MBE/WBE. The title of the second column is: Service-Oriented Language. The first bullet point reads Join a board and give feedback to council. The second bullet point reads Get certification for your Minority or Women-Owned Business.
There will be times when you must use department names in resident-facing content. A good rule of thumb is: If a resident must call, email, go to, or otherwise interact with a department or division in order to access a service or information, use the department or division's name. Remember to capitalize the name, since it is a pronoun. If it's not necessary to use the name, rewrite it to focus on the action required or other key information.
Four examples of other cities and governments who are doing a great job of incorporating service-oriented language are:
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