USAJOBS Content Style Guide

This style guide is a work in progress. It pulls from and extends previous work completed by Andy Lewandoski and Tracy Orrison (USAJOBS Content Analysis_FINAL.pdf). There are several resources available that already provide guidance around content. Where appropriate this document will point to the following:


Help users apply for jobs and find the information they need to successfully apply for jobs.

Writing Style

All content on should be:


USAJOBS needs to make a personal connection with the user. Finding, applying and getting a job can be stressful—USAJOBS needs to guide the user through the process and make it easier to find the information they need and build trust that the information they find is accurate and timely.

To establish a friendlier, more personal tone and content that’s easy to understand:

Web Writing Standards

People skim the web—they don’t read. They want to find information quickly and without much effort. It’s important for web writing to be friendly, conversational and in small chunks so it’s easy scan and move on.

Put the most important information first

Use the inverted pyramid structure.

  1. Most important information at the top of the page – include a strong topic sentence that will tell the user what the content is about.
  2. Further details are in the body/middle of the page
  3. Less important, but still good to know information is at the bottom of the page, such as related links or other contextual information.

Most people will read the top of the page, some will read the middle if they’re interested and few will read the bottom.

Organize content into digestible chunks

The web is not a book—users will not read a page full of text.

Use the active voice

Active voice is concise, direct and makes it clear who is doing the action or who is supposed to be doing the action. Using the active voice makes the content easy to understand.

An active voice sentence follows this order: Subject + Verb + Object

Example of passive voice:

The following information must be included in the application for it to be considered complete.

Example of active voice:

You must include the following information in your application

Avoid the passive voice—it’s ambiguous and makes for longer, more complex sentences. You can see in the example above; the passive voice sentence uses 15 words, the active voice sentence uses 9 words.

Use Plain Language

Incorporate all guidelines and standards recommended by

Plain language is easy to understand and accessible—the theme is SIMPLE.


Capitalize headings/titles, when speaking about a specific section of the site or a button label in help content.

Example in help content:

But, when referring to a user’s applications or documents, use lowercase:

Do Not

Page titles




Form Field Labels


Spelling and Common Words

Below are some of the most commonly misspelled or misused words used on USAJOBS. For any words not listed here, follow guidelines in the 18F Content guide.

Do Not

Use of Account vs. Profile


This is the managing aspect of all your USAJOBS applications, resumes, saved jobs, saved searches.



This is your personal information – your contact info, eligibility, and preferences. This information is required in order to apply.


But, you don’t manage your applications, saved jobs, etc. in your profile.

Welcome message

Example: Welcome, Debbie

Writing help text


“Click Print for a printer friendly version”

In general, most links need to open in the same window. However, whenever you link to a completely different website, the link should open in a new window. Follow these specific guidelines for links:

Top navigation

Open links in the same window.

Bottom navigation

Open links in the same window, unless the link goes to a website outside of USAJOBS or Open Opportunities. In this case, open the link in a new window.

Help icons

For a help icon (?) in the search filters, in the profile section, in a job announcement or during the application process, open the link in a new window.

For the main “Help” link in the top or bottom navigation, open the link in the same window.