Skip to content

How we write - our voice

Voice and tone, writing style, and spelling define the look and feel of written information. 

On this page

Voice and tone

Our writing is:

  • straightforward
  • human
  • authoritative, and
  • impartial.


  • use plain, familiar language
  • use short sentences
  • mostly use the active voice – this means we avoid using the passive tense whenever possible
  • say 'you' and 'your' when talking to you
  • use simple contractions like 'you're' or 'you'll'
  • mark Māori words up correctly, including macrons
  • use respectful, gender-neutral language.

We tell you specifically and concisely what you can do or get. When we use the word ‘we’ on any page, we make sure it’s clear who we’re referring to at the top of that page. If we’re talking about a legal requirement, we use 'must' to give emphasis.

For example:

  • 'You can apply for' - not 'You may be able to apply for'.

Active and passive writing

Active writing mentions the subject (the person or thing 'doing' the action) first in the sentence (for example, inflation pushed up house prices).

Passive writing mentions the object (the person or thing 'receiving' the action) first. Passive sentences often include 'by' (for example, house prices were pushed up by inflation).

Active writing is more direct and often simpler, and should be used most of the time. We’ll use short, clear sentences.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

We don't use FAQs. If you keep asking us the same questions, we need to rewrite the content.

Scannable content

We make our content easy for you to read and understand by:

  • using frequent, informative headings
  • creating lists
  • writing short paragraphs
  • putting links on separate lines.


We use New Zealand English for our spelling (not US English).


We use these resources if we need help with spelling, grammar or punctuation issues not covered in this guide.

Oxford Dictionaries
Te Aka Māori Dictionary

Contact us

If you’d like more information, have a question, or want to provide feedback, email

Content last reviewed 21 October 2020.