Use active verbs

Use active verbs and not passive verbs. Active verbs are when the sentence’s subject does something. Passive verbs are when the sentence’s subject has something done to it. In the examples below, the subjects are the policy and the study.

The policy encourages firms to…


Firms are encouraged by the policy to…

The study shows a trend


A trend is shown by the study

However, write “It is expected”, rather than “One expects”. Using “one” is considered old-fashioned and we refer to ourselves at ONS as “we”.


Best practice for web writing is to use personal pronouns when referring to our own organisation. Use personal pronouns (such as “we” or “our”) when referring to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), apart from the following exceptions:

  • when a publication has been produced in collaboration with another organisation or government body (such as Defra or Public Health England)
  • when we are one of a number of organisations or government bodies being discussed in a paragraph
  • when the use of “our” with the word “data” or “statistics” would add some doubt as to where that data comes from or its objectivity

This release has been produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England (PHE).
This type of information is not always present in the ONS data but it is in the PHE data.
The data show that…

The word “the” should be used when referring to our organisation, including when using “ONS”.

Welcome to the Office for National Statistics.
At the Office for National Statistics (ONS), we are responsible for…
The ONS has made the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) its preferred measure of inflation.

Do not use “on the ONS website” or “on our website”. The user is already on our website. Provide a well-named link to the page you are referring to.

This is explored further on the Retail Sales Index Quality and Methodology Information page.
Please refer to our previously published article International immigration and the labour market, UK: 2016.

We are constantly improving based on research and best practice. Any significant changes to our guidance are available on the Updates page.