How do you write for 250,000 people?

Writing for Bexley Council

From parking fines to primary schools, council services can be complex.


Finding out about them shouldn’t be.

A quarter of a million people rely on the London Borough of Bexley, and by extension, their website: which day is garden waste again? How much council tax do I owe? Have the couple over the road applied for planning permission again?

When the council’s digital team came to us, they knew this information could be fiddly to find and hard to understand. So we jumped to it.

Our first mission: find out what residents were after.

Some teams needed people to take an action, like paying a parking fine. Some wanted to show that Bexley’s a great place to work. And some had to make sure vulnerable audiences found it easy to find important information.

We sat down with their specialists to understand more about the people using their services. With their insight and digital know-how, we started reworking the six most-visited sections of the website: parking, planning, health and social care, recycling, school admissions and recruitment.

‘I didn’t think you could write to the public like this…’

When we spoke to the experts, they explained processes in simple, everyday terms. In writing, they’d fall back on technical terms and formal language.

So we wrote as if they were speaking – and so that almost any adult resident could read a page of the website and get it straight away.

More than one of these experts told us that they hadn’t thought it was okay to write in such straightforward language for the public (but that it was a pleasant surprise to find out).

We’re now developing tone of voice guidelines to simplify the rest of the site – and make it more user-friendly than ever.

Need a word?

Get in touch.