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Content style guide

Naming and labels

Most tools, products, benefits, offices, and programs don’t need a brand name or branded label. In line with the VA Graphics Standards against custom logos, we also don’t create “brand clutter” with unnecessary branding.

Don’t create new brands

We limit branded names and labels for these reasons:

  • They force internal jargon on customers.
  • They spawn unnecessary sub-brands and create confusion for Veterans.
  • They’re expensive and time-consuming to market in order to educate customers on what they mean.

Check the word list for tools, benefits, and programs that are OK to capitalize.

Use descriptive plain language labels

If you need to call your tool, program, or benefit something, call it what it is. Use everyday, plain language words that people already understand.

This follows our content principles, is easier to understand without explanatory information, and is better for SEO.

In the example below, there’s no need to brand education benefits with the internal line of business because all Veteran benefits are through VA. Likewise, on-the-job training doesn’t need to be made into a brand or a branded, uncommon acronym.

Like this

Your VA education benefits can help you pay for books, supplies, and housing while you’re learning a trade or skill through on-the-job training.

Not this

Your VA Education Benefits can help you pay for books, supplies, and housing while you’re learning a trade or skill through On-the-Job Training (OJT).

In the examples below, branded labels hide critical information. Using a descriptive plain language label helps the user find the task or information they’re looking for.

Like this

VA combined disability rating calculator

View your electricity bill

Not this

The Combinator

Pepco Green Button

Don’t create acronyms to use like a brand name

Many government organizations rely on acronyms as shorthand in internal communications, but that doesn’t mean we should make customers learn our internal jargon.

Don’t create new acronyms in Veteran-facing content that aren’t commonly used and understood by them already. When in doubt, refer to Merriam-Webster or AP Style. Likewise, don’t use internal acronyms in Veteran-facing content like they’re brand names.

Avoid “alphabet soup” syndrome

Internal acronyms, used like branded names, can cause problems for these reasons:

  • They’re hard to understand by customers and people outside your business or team.
  • They sound like Government, not human.
  • They don’t align with our content principles.

Like this

Find out if you’re eligible for VA education benefits for dependents and spouses.

In certain cases, our Veterans transportation program may reimburse you for the cost of traveling to a VA medical center out of your area. We also give grants to organizations that provide transportation services to Veterans living in very rural areas, and can help arrange transportation for special needs.

Not this

Find out if you’re eligible for the VA Dependents and Spouse Education Benefits (VADSEB).

VTP provides Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) and Beneficiary Travel (BT), and provides Highly Rural Transportation Grants (HRTG) to non-profit organizations. The BT program, as part of VTP, may also help arrange special mode transportation (SMT) at the request of VA.

Last updated: Dec 07, 2023