The Official Languages Act 2003
Public bodies use written communication to engage with the public in many ways including letters, emails, mail shots, information leaflets, reports, announcements and websites. In the case of each of these, public bodies have specific duties under the Official Languages Act.
The Official Languages Act 2003 sets out the duties of public bodies regarding the provision of services in Irish and the rights of the public to avail of those services.
A few important examples of the duties are as follows:
- When a person writes to a public body in Irish, by letter or by email, that person is entitled to receive a reply in Irish.
- Public bodies have a duty to ensure that their stationery (notepaper, compliment slips, fax cover sheets, file covers and other folders, labels and envelopes), signage and recorded oral announcements are provided in Irish or bilingually.
- Public bodies have a duty to publish certain core documents simultaneously in Irish and English.
Further guidance on the Official Languages Act 2003 is available on the website of An Coimisinéir Teanga.
The following guidance should be applied when writing dates:
- Write dates in dd mm yyyy (date month year).
For example, 12 February 2020.
- When referring to a range of dates, use a hyphen in the middle.
For example, 12-13 February 2020.
- Write decades in digits with just an ‘s’ at the end (no apostrophe) -
for example, the 2020s.
- Do not write nd/th as part of a date.
For example, 24 February 2020 not 24th February 2020.
- Include a comma when including the name of the day before the date
- for example, Friday, 10 February 2020.
Writing numbers and amounts
- Write numbers one to nine in words and use digits for number 10 and upwards.
- If a sentence starts with a number, write the number in words, and if it is a double digit over 20, insert a hyphen between the words.
For example, Twenty-one.
- If writing digits, group them in threes from the right, inserting a comma to separate each group.
Four digit numbers: 2,345
Five or more digits: 20,999 345,345 5,456,678
- The numbers 3, 5 and 8 can be misread and, with some fonts, 0 and 6 can be confused. Choose a font that has clear numbers, such as, Tahoma or Verdana.
- When using tables, make sure the numbers and borders are not too close together.
- Use decimal points only where necessary, as they can be difficult to see.
- Write percentages with digits and use the percentage symbol (%).
For example, 60%.
- Replace ‘rounded’ percentages with a fraction.
For example, almost three-quarters (74%) of employees in the ICT sector are new to the sector.
- Treat the percentage as a singular or plural according to the subject in the sentence.
For example, singular - 50% of paper and board produced globally ‘is’ used for packaging, or, plural - 50% of bananas produced globally ‘are’ exported to other countries.
Writing phone numbers
- Write the area code in brackets before the local number.
For example, (071) 66522.
- If the local number contains more than five digits, divide the digits into groups of two or three and leave a space between them.
For example, 209 26 24.
- Divide the digits in Freephone or LoCall numbers according to how easy it is to remember them.
For example, LoCall 1890 600 20 20.
- Use +353 if writing an international access code for an Irish telephone number.
For example, write +353 1 800 94 000 instead of 00 353 1 800 94 000.
- If space allows, write an address the way it would appear on an envelope.
- If the address appears in this way as part of a sentence, include a colon before the address and put a full stop after the last line.
For more information, write to:
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,
- If space is tight, put the address on one line, with a comma after each part of the address and a full stop at the end of it.
For more information, write to: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Government Buildings, Dublin 2, D02 R583.
Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach
Written Text Checklist
Dates, numbers and percentages Checklist