What the Clear English Standard shows
Plain Language Commission has vetted the Financial Services Authority website for clarity and ease of use. After detailed, thorough assessment against the criteria shown below, we have permitted the site to display the Clear English Standard at the level (bronze, silver or gold) stated in the logo. For full details of our services, please see our own website.
Specific criteria for the different levels – bronze, silver and gold
Bronze Main pages and menus are clear, well written and free of obvious errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation. Page layout is of a generally acceptable standard. Main links work well.
Silver Main and most subsidiary pages are clear, well written and free of obvious errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation. Tone of voice is consistently pleasant and welcoming, where that’s appropriate. Page layout is of a generally high standard. Most links work well.
Gold All pages are clear, well written and free of obvious errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation. Proofreading errors and broken links are rare. The site is highly accessible, broadly equivalent to W3C standard (see w3.org for more details, though we don’t insist on W3C accreditation). Page layout is consistently excellent. Overall, the site is a pleasure to read and use.
The relevant pages of the site should meet the criteria shown by the following questions:
Is the purpose of the material obvious or stated early and clearly?
Is the information accurate, up to date, relevant and complete, anticipating questions and answering them?
Is essential jargon explained or defined?
Are contact points stated for readers who want to know more?
Structure and usability
Is the information well organized and easy to navigate through, with appropriate headings, sub-headings, links, and other signposting?
Is there appropriate use of graphics, diagrams and summary panels?
Are there adequate access facilities for people with older computers?
Style and grammar
Is the language appropriate for the audience, with a good average sentence length (say 15-20 words) and reasonably short paragraphs?
Is the material free of pomposity, verbosity and officialese?
Is the text grammatically sound and well punctuated?
Is capitalization consistent in text and headings?
Layout and design
Overall, does the site look good?
Is the type highly legible and is there ample space between lines of type?
Is there a clear hierarchy of headings and spaces?
Have bold type and colour been used consistently and well?
What is excluded from the accreditation?
We exclude all stand-alone documents such as annual reports, newsletters, press releases and the like (unless they carry the print version of the Clear English Standard). This means we won’t have checked any of these documents at all and the accreditation logo doesn’t apply to them. For obvious reasons, we also exclude material that’s posted on the website in an emergency.
We have specifically excluded:
- FSA Handbook
- Small Firms section
Frequency of maintenance checks – how we seek to ensure that standards remain high
We re-check the website continually from the date of accreditation. In practice this means a check at least every month. If we think our criteria are not being met at any time, we’ll suggest improvements and - if necessary - withdraw the right to use the Clear English Standard at a particular level or completely.
Large websites tend to be added to by many different authors. It’s impossible for us to check every addition they make, though we ask all accredited sites to keep us fully informed about changes at least once a month. This means that errors and other failings will sometimes appear on sites we are accrediting. If you notice them, please let us know. Standards of clarity on accredited websites may be lower than on the print documents we accredit, as these are fixed at the time of printing.
We welcome your views
We hope you’ll agree that the website is clear and easy to use. If you have comments on it, please tell us by fax, letter or email. This helps the site operator, other site users, and us. (You may, of course, prefer to tell the site operator direct.) Please remember that we do not influence, or have legal liability for, the content, policies or opinions on the website. Our vetting is solely concerned with clarity and ease of use. However, the Clear English Standard may not be used on sites that we regard as party political or based mainly on religious or anti-religious sentiments.
Logo available for printed documents
In a different format, the Clear English Standard is available for documents. The logo already appears on more than 10,000 documents, mainly in the UK. Again, our website gives details or you can call us for a brochure.
The Clear English Standard in all its forms is protected by copyright law. Unauthorized copying, alteration or use may lead to legal action for breach of copyright.
More about plain English
A good source of information is ‘The Oxford Guide to Plain English' by Martin Cutts, available from our e-shop and in all good bookshops.
Where you can contact us
Plain Language Commission
Tel: + 44 (0) 1663 733177
Fax: + 44 (0) 1663 735135
Plain Language Commission is a trading name of clearest.co.uk ltd, a company that is independent of any government body.