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Tone

Users are likely to be:
• researching common illnesses and conditions
• looking for advice about using common medicines

Examples of content they might see:

Health A-Z
All about antibiotics
Under the weather
Immunisation

Users could be feeling:

• anxious/worried
• uncertain
• sick/unwell
• uninformed
• interested

Tone

Speak like you’re a doctor, pharmacist or teacher: an expert giving advice.

• Reassuring
• Supportive
• Authoritative

Example 1

Most earaches get better on their own in 3 or 4 days. It can be very sore, but pain relief is usually the only treatment you need. Antibiotics don't work for viral ear infections and can’t help with the pain.

Example 2 

If you get sudden diarrhoea and vomiting, the best thing to do is to stay at home until you get well. There's no cure for norovirus, so you must wait until it clears up. Here’s how to treat yourself at home, to feel better and get well faster: […]

Users are likely to be

• self-managing a condition that can’t be cured
• self-managing a serious/long-term condition
• caring for a someone in these circumstances

Examples of content they might see:

• Cancer information for patients and families
• Carer’s support section

User could be feeling

• frightened
• overwhelmed
• frustrated
• alone
• determined
• positive/motivated/curious/improving

Tone

Speak like you’re a nurse on a care ward: compassionate and caring, but also practical and matter-of-fact.

• Compassionate
• Supportive
• Practical

Example 1

Caring for someone can be rewarding, but it can also be very hard. You deserve help and support – all carers do. We can put you in touch with people who can advise you, give you a rest from caring or just offer a friendly ear.

Example 2

A diagnosis of dementia can be frightening, but you and your family can now get lots of help to prepare for the future. Set up the right support now, and it could help you lead a full and active life.

• Find benefits, advice and support
• Read about living well with dementia

Users are likely to be

• looking for advice on diet, exercise and healthy living
• researching how to prevent illness

Examples of content they might see:

• Healthy Ireland lifestyle content
• Stop smoking / QUIT
• Child safety

User could be feeling

• motivated/optimistic
• ashamed/embarrassed
• confused/uncertain
• anxious
• judged

Tone

Speak like you’re a personal trainer crossed with an exercise partner: partly an expert who knows how this can be done (and the risks of not making the change), partly a friend who’s in the same boat.

• Motivational/encouraging/positive
• Supportive
• Understanding

Example 1

You may think the damage is already done or that it's too late to quit. But that's not true. Put out that last cigarette now – and your health will start to improve in just 20 minutes.

Example 2 

Research shows children of a healthy weight are fitter, better able to learn, and more self-confident. We all want this for our children, so how do we help them?

Users are likely to be

• making a complaint or appeal
• experiencing an error on the site

Examples of content they might see:

• error messages, automated emails
• complaints formscomplaints policy
• appeals
• complaints related to specific services

User could be feeling

• angry
• frustrated / impatient
• stressed, panicked
• sceptical
• disappointed

Tone

Speak like you’re a professional talking to a colleague: peer-to-peer, but quite formal.

• Professional
• Responsible
• Honest

Example 1

We’re sorry that you had a bad experience with [this service]. Please use the [online form] to tell us what went wrong. We will get back to you within 48 hours to resolve this.

Users are likely to be

• interacting with a service we provide (like getting a medical card)
• finding information about how to access a service

Examples of content they might see:

• Register for online payslips
• PCRS online services
 Renew an EHIC card
• Register for a GP visit card over 70s

User could be feeling

• just want to get it done!
• uncertain what to do
• not sure it’s right
• satisfied that it’s going well
• impatient/frustrated

Tone

Speak like you’re a professional explaining a process to a group of peers.

• Direct
• Clear
• Simple

(This is a variation on our normal voice with the elements of compassion and care dialled down. We express care here by being efficient and helping users get something done quickly and easily.)

Example (good and bad, to show the difference)

Bad: Welcome to the registration system for the GP Visit Card Over 70s scheme. You may wish to have somebody register your details on your behalf, this person is referred to as the "nominated contact". In order to register you will need the following information…
Good: Get a GP Visit Card if you are over 70. You can apply for this yourself, or someone else can apply on your behalf. You will need:


It’s appropriate to use a more upbeat, celebratory tone if you’re announcing good news or celebrating a success. Examples of content include:

• Blog posts
• Press releases
• Announcements
• Success messages

Be wary of sounding self-congratulatory or using spin: these will damage trust.


Sometimes it’s hard to know when to use which tone. If you’re not sure, always use our voice.

Here are some examples of content where you should use our normal voice.

1. People researching life stages, life events

For example, people looking for information about pregnancy, childcare, or older age. Use our normal voice. That’s because we can’t assume that we know what these people are experiencing.

For example, people experiencing unwanted pregnancy will be alienated by messages saying ‘Congratulations on your pregnancy’ and ‘This is always an exciting time.’

2. Lifestyle changes: managing problems with drink or drugs

Use our normal voice – and remember that care and compassion are central elements of this. Avoid sounding judgemental. 

Check the tone with:

Alcohol

Marion Rackard marion.rackard@hse.ie

Drugs

Nicola Corrigan nicola.corrigan@hse.ie

3. Get help with mental health condition (as a person with a mental health issue)

Use our normal voice – and remember that care and compassion are central elements of this. Avoid sounding judgemental. Refer to ‘How to write about people.’

Check the tone with:
Sarah Woods sarah.woods1@hse.ie
Ciaran Austin Ciaran.austin@hse.ie
Emer Clarke emer.clarke2@hse.ie

4. Get help with disability (as a person with a disability)

Use our normal voice – and remember that care and compassion are central elements of this. Refer to ‘How to write about people’ and ‘Accessibility’ in the style manual.

Check the tone with:
Monica Timmons monica.timmins1@hse.ie

5. Learn about sexual health / STIs

Use our normal voice – and remember that care and compassion are central elements of this. Don’t assume that your audience is restricted to younger people and teenagers.

6. Jobs, recruitment and corporate/organisational information

Use our normal voice. Be positive but honest.