House style guide: Words we use 

‘Words we use’ is here to guide everyone who communicates Sense to others, both internally and externally. By following this guideline, we’ll continue to prove ourselves as a conscientious, cohesive brand. 

This page will lead you through some of the key style rules for any written communication, be it email, presentations, webpages or printed materials.  

Words we use glossary – the full A-Z of terms can be found here.

Top five rules 

1. Sense has a warm, positive and person-focused tone of voice.

We reflect our values in our writing style, which means using a friendly, informal tone. Use contractions such as ‘you’ll be able to’ rather than ‘you will be able to’; use first names; and address the reader as ‘you’. 
Exceptions to this might include reports and any communications with audiences that prefer a formal tone. 

This extends to the way we talk about disability. The language we use has an enormous impact on wider views and attitudes towards disabled people. We want to continue to raise confidence, expectations and support, so the language we use will highlight people’s value, their strengths and their dignity. 

“A positive image of disability is a fair, creative and stimulating portrayal of one or more disabled people.” 

– The Office for Disability Issues

2. People, disabled people, people with complex disabilities, people who are deafblind 

We refer to ‘disabled people’, rather than ‘the disabled’. We don’t use ‘people with disabilities’. This reflects our understanding, informed by the social model of disability, that people are disabled by the world around them, rather than by their condition.  

It’s important to note that this contrasts with our rule on complex disabilities. Here, we follow people first language and always say ‘people with complex disabilities’ and ‘people who are deafblind’

We use the term ‘people’ over ‘individual’, ‘client’, ‘service user’ and ‘resident’.  
In the social care sector, the words ‘individual’ and ‘individuals’ have become labels.  

The words we use to describe people should provide relevant information and context. Such as being a ‘student’ when you’re at college, or a ‘patient’ when you’re in hospital. Using these terms out of these contexts would be wrong. The ‘patient’ is also someone who is a father, someone who likes to go to the pub, someone who have support from a Sense service.  

3. Simple sentence structure, simple language 

Aim to use short, simple sentences. These are often friendlier than long, complex ones. For greater accessibility, we write within the principles of plain English.

“Style to be good must be clear. Clearness is secured by using words that are current and ordinary.”

– Aristotle  

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, ‘What about lunch?’”

– Winnie the Pooh 

4. Sentence case – capital letters in headings 

Only use a capital letter for the first letter of the first word. This rule should be applied to titles/headings, sub-headings, email subject lines and campaign slogans. 
The only exceptions are for proper nouns, including Sense services. 

5. Numbers and percentages 

Write numbers one to ten out in full, as words. Any higher numbers, from 11 upwards, should be shown as numerals. This rule should also be followed for ordinals, such as ‘Sense was celebrating its 50th anniversary’. 

Exceptions include: 

  • Numbers at the beginning of a sentence, which should always be written out in full. Such as ‘Two people were invited to the party.’ 
  • If a sentence uses both small and large numbers, write them all the same way. For instance, ‘each of the 5 hubs contained 12 rooms, each with 11 desks and chairs.’ Note ‘five’ becomes ‘5’. 
  • Percentages and decimals should be written numerically, even if the value is less than ten. For instance, ‘8.5% of people’