Editorial and Content Guide

Editorial principles and guidelines for creating content

Vets.gov Content Guiding Principles

Our most important guiding principle for all vets.gov content is that “doing” is better than “explaining.”

When it comes to content, we believe that less is more.

Our goal is to give Veterans the tools and content they need to complete a task—quickly and easily. We are constantly asking the question “what does a Veteran want to accomplish during this visit?” To this end, other principles that guide our approach to content include the following:

Relevant to Veterans and Accurate

  • Our content is developed and prioritized based on Veteran feedback, user research, VA call center data, and website analytics data.
  • We don’t migrate content “about our office” content or executive bios to vets.gov. (This is important and helpful content about VA, and it will continue to reside on the organizationally-focused VA.gov website!)
  • Our content is accurate and undergoes a rigorous “content concurrence” proces with VA subject matter experts.

Easy to Use and Find

  • Our content is written in plain language.
  • Our content is concise and “skimmable” so Veterans can find what they are looking for quickly.
  • We don’t bury online features and capabilities in pages and pages of content.
  • We don’t believe in user guides, long instructions, and lengthy FAQs; we believe these things aren’t necessary if website features are designed in a user centered way.
  • Our display of content is accessible / 508 compliant and mobile responsive.
  • Our content is easily searchable by Veterans and outside sources.

Editorial Guide

Language communicates our humanity. In the context of a website, it conjures up the people on the other side of that glowing screen. It engages, builds trust, and guides visitors through processes and information that can be stressful and confusing.

The primary headline on our home page reflects that: How can we help?

vets.gov’s language is clear and direct, yet its tone is warm and quiet. We respect Veterans’ time, so we get to the point. And we avoid bureaucratese.

We don’t say utilize when use works just as well.

We avoid saying manifested, because started says it better.

We distill and simplify. We’re not selling programs and benefits, but rather helping Veterans and their families understand whether a benefit is right for them so they can make informed choices about how to proceed. Our goal is to give Veterans and their families the information they need to make important decisions confidently, easily—and done.

Additional Resources