Janet wrote recently about how we're presenting policy differently on Inside Government, but what does that mean for individual departments? Paola Wright, Online Policy Desk Officer for the Ministry of Defence (MOD), explains the impact it has had on their work.
After nearly two months of work, all of our policies at MOD are just about ready to be published on GOV.UK. It's taken a lot of hard graft, in a very short space of time, and it's meant big changes to how we approach policy. Although there have been a few hiccups along the way, it's been a success story.
The right team for the job
Some of our policy team decided to take on the task of rewriting content for GOV.UK themselves, but we also worked with GDS to hire professional copywriters to help rewrite the rest.
Writing for the web is very different to writing a document for internal use, especially in a government department. Here, we tend to use specialised language to talk about what we're doing, which goes against the Inside Government style guidelines.
We needed copywriters who could change complex language and jargon into plain English. They had to be able to condense long documents and communicate very clear messages without losing any of the meaning.
Copywriters, my team and policy leads all worked closely to iterate each document. Although some people were initially anxious about that process, we demonstrated early on that rephrasing the language doesn't dilute the message.
But at times it's been difficult. As you can imagine, in government the phraseology or a single word can carry great significance, whereas it may not mean much to the general public. So although changing a word may make a sentence more meaningful, that one particular word may have great significance for the department involved, and no other word will do.
Communication hasn't always been as frequent as it could have been given the tempo of the project and the need to achieve so much in such a short period of time.
Our biggest task was explaining to our stakeholders that the documents we were rewriting were not the finished products - they were the first of many iterations.
We've had to learn to approach projects in a more agile way. It hasn't always been easy, but it has resulted in clearer content that people can read and understand more easily.
When the Ministry of Defence joins GOV.UK in a few weeks time, you'll be able to see the result of this work and get a much clearer idea of what the MOD is doing. We look forward to your feedback.