This Style Guide is generously shared by the Ohio Legal Help team with the broader legal services community.
Use this guide as you are drafting content, design, and SEO strategies for your website.
It includes very practical timelines, roles, SEO strategies, grammar rules, page types, and plain language guides.
Please write if you have more details or examples to add into this style guide for legal help websites.
Ohio Legal Help seeks to improve access to justice for all Ohioans, especially low-income Ohioans, by providing meaningful and effective assistance through an integrated continuum of services, including self-help legal information. It is essential that the self-help information on the website be consistent, accessible and clear. This style guide provides a set of standards to ensure that Ohio Legal Help’s content is as consistent as possible across legal areas and authors.
We will strive to write the best content for the majority of people, with the following guidelines:
- Users are the center of what we do and user-centered design processes are applicable to content creation, including developing user-personas, defining, landscaping and research, prototyping, testing and iteration.
- Our information will be authoritative yet compassionate. We assume that many readers will be facing stressful situations like divorce, eviction or debt.
- Information will be designed to empower the reader to take action to advocate themselves. We will only define those legal concepts or terms that readers must understand in order to take action.
- If we must use legal phases, we’ll use them as though they were “magic words.” We’ll acknowledge that they might be foreign words and provide readers with a script or checklist, so they know how to use them.
- We’ll provide the best content streamlined for the use in 80% of circumstances. If a detail is only relevant to a small percentage of the population, we’ll exclude it to simplify the information for the rest of the readers. However, if leaving out the detail could have substantial impact or cause harm to the smaller population of users, the detail should be included.
- We’ll provide details to instill confidence. We’ll be specific about what the reader should do (i.e. suggest a specific phrase to demand that the debt collector provides evidence that you owe them money) and give them examples of why that’s worth doing (for instance, some debt collection plaintiffs drop lawsuits when they meet opposition).
- We’ll write and format text, as necessary, to maximize search engine optimization (SEO) for Topic pages, the information hubs of the site.
Content Development Process
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to legal content development. The Ohio Legal Help team generally follows the method below to develop our legal content articles and self-help tools. It is critical that each “module” or “section” of content be developed with a consideration of that area of law’s unique complexity, the ubiquity of the legal issues, the impact on low-income Ohioans, and the depth of existing resources (both written and one-on-one services).
Ohio Legal Help uses non-lawyer writers to draft its plain language information, in conjunction with oversight from the Content Manager / Executive Director, and subject matter expertise from attorneys who practice the relevant area of law and court and clerk staff who interact with users.
- Content Manager will do an initial survey of existing relevant content from Ohio’s legal aids, courts, government agencies and other trusted sources.
- Writer will review sources and propose initial topics and structure for the content module. Each page should have clearly defined goal for the user—we’re not writing to educate on every possible aspect of a legal topic. We’re writing to help a user solve a specific problem or summarize a discreet concept. Examples of page “goals” include:
- Content Manager will identify Legal Expert(s) with assistance from Executive Director as needed.
- Writer, Content Manager, Legal Expert(s) meet to discuss project.
- Initial orientation to Ohio Legal Help
- Built to meet the needs of self-represented, low-income Ohioans.
- Overview of content creation/design process.80/20 rule – we’ll provide the best content streamlined for the use in 80% of circumstances.
- Do no harm—if an average self-represented person could not reasonably successfully navigate the legal process, we do not provide detailed information on that process. In that instance, we suggest local resources for the user.
- Review of Writer/Content Manager’s understanding of primary legal issues that are relevant to target population
- Flesh out details:
- What are five most important things you want a pro bono client to understand about this issue?
- What are the five things that pro bono clients most often want to know?
- What common misconceptions or errors create problems for nonlawyers?
- Is this something a non-lawyer can reasonably accomplish?
- Edits to initial outline as needed.
- Writer will draft articles based on revised outline.
- Legal Expert(s) will review drafts and provide feedback.
- Once draft is approved by Legal Expert(s), the Content Manager will do a style/grammar/usability review. This step is critical to ensure a consistent user experience on the site.
- Executive Director does final usability review and review for UPL.
Notes on Translating Legal Information for a Lay Audience
- In general, our target audience will read our materials very literally. They’ll take what we say at face value and act accordingly. We need to be careful that trying to have a more human or readable tone doesn’t lead us to say things in a way that’s overly casual or generalized and can be misinterpreted.
- Our target audience will also use our materials to talk to other people, like court personnel and lawyers. It’s important that those audiences can recognize what our readers are trying to communicate (this is a reason, for instance, to give readers the legal technical terms for anything they might need to communicate with someone else about).
- It’s important to distinguish between things that are always true, because they’re the law, and things that are usually true, because that’s the way the world works. This is important in both directions– so it’s important to say “this will always be included in X” as opposed to “this will likely be included in X”– if that’s what the law says. And also to be careful of statements like “this will almost always be included in X” if that’s not the actual law– better would be “this is often included in X, but could also be in Y or Z”– even if Y and Z are relatively obscure.
- Don’t say things like “this is the best solution in most cases.” Stay away from qualitative judgement of what the user should do. You can describe a common approach based on certain circumstances, e.g. “Many find this to be a good solution, because X and Y compelling reasons.”
- It will be a challenge, and probably require some going back and forth with our legal experts, to simplify the language for some of the more complex topics. We need to be aware that simplifying a word or generalizing the language may make statements legally incorrect. If describing all the complexities seem unnecessarily complicated for our readers, consider saying it’s complicated and giving an example or two that are more common. As you write drafts, flag sentences or passages that you’d like legal help to simplify.
Types of Pages
In general, a Topic page is a summary page that provides an overview, “mini-homepage” and hub for more information and resources about a core user question. A user question should be translated into a Topic page if:
- It represents a key user question that will be in the guide to help;
- It’s a “hub” for more informational pages, forms or resources; or
- Our partners are likely to direct clients to it as a “mini-site.”
A topic page “Understanding the Basics” section should be about 600 – 1200 words. Very short (200 – 400 words) should be avoided, as it negatively impacts the site SEO and user survey data suggests that users view these pages as low value or “not helpful.”
A topic page should EITHER:
- Answer most of the key questions/ info so the user can take action; OR
- Offer context that directs users to one of several additional pages (e.g. the difference between divorce, dissolution and legal separation.
Trying to do both of these things (answer many questions while also providing context and links to multiple pages) makes it too hard for the user to parse what to do next.
Information on a topic page should be grouped into segments using paragraph breaks, headers and/or bullet points.
A Detail page can contain any information that’s not applicable to a Topic page– generally, they will be longer, but they don’t have to be. At around 2,000 words, we should consider breaking one Detail page into two. Structure should be carefully considered to make sure that the key information on the page is easily scannable (e.g. use of headers and bolding).
Never choose to use a different word or paraphrase a sentence because you’re worried it will sound redundant. Using the same words for the same concepts is helpful for low-literacy clients.
Redundant content is fine. A Topic and Detail page could use the same sentence or several if it’s appropriate in both places. We should assume that users will be:
- Entering the article directly from a search engine or other direct link;
- Not reading very closely; and,
- Potentially low literacy readers for whom it’s reassuring to see the same thing again (rather than seeing the same concept summarized in a different way and needing to figure out if it means the same thing).
Titles and Formatting
In general, capitalize only the first word of a title, except for proper nouns. Or if the title includes a colon, also capitalize the first word after the colon. For example:
- “Getting a green card”
- NOT “Getting a Green Card”
- “Franklin County rent escrow application”
- “Immigration: Limited power of attorney for children”
Topic page titles
Titles for topic pages will:
- Fit seamlessly into the following phrase “It sounds like you’d like help with [Topic Page Name].”
- Avoid personal pronouns, but if necessary, should be written in the second person.
- Include one or two key words that a user might search for related to that issue.
E.g. Divorce without children; Getting your landlord to make repairs; SNAP benefits
Detail page titles
Detail pages can be more varied, but will:
- Include one keyword or keyword phrase.
- Identify the type of article or question being answered (e.g. if it’s a checklist: “Moving out checklist”; or if it’s describing a process “What happens at an eviction hearing”).
- Questions are acceptable titles for detail pages if it is an easy fit (don’t force all of your titles into questions if it doesn’t make sense for the topic).
- All headers in articles should be preceded by text.
- If there is one header in an article, there must be at least one more at the same level of hierarchy.
- Glossary terms should not be used in headings.
- Capitalize only the first word of a heading, unless it contains a proper noun, e.g.:
- “Paid sick leave”
- “Contact the court”
- “Eligibility for Ohio Works First”
Topic page headings
There should only be two hierarchal level of headings used on topic pages. Use “Header 3” formatting for the top level, and “Header 4” formatting for the lower level.
Detail page headings
There should be no more than two hierarchal levels of headings on detail pages. Use “Header 2” formatting for the top level, and “Header 3” formatting for the lower level.
Additional Formatting Notes
- You may use bold text to highlight important phrases, but do not use bold text to serve as a stand-in for a heading. All headings must use the Drupal “Header 2, 3 or 4” style as appropriate.
- Do not use italics. Quotes may be an acceptable substitute, e.g.
- At court, you could say: “Your honor, I have completely moved out of the home.”
- When formatting bulleted lists:
- Introductory words or phrases should be offset from the rest of the bullet point text using a period as appropriate. E.g.:
- Write a letter. You should write a letter to your landlord asking for repairs.
- Bold introductory text set off by a period, including the period.
- If the list is a series of sentences, each bullet should end with a period. If the list is a series of words or non-sentence fragments, they should not end with a period. All items within a list should be of parallel construction, so either they are all fragments without a period, or full sentences with a period.
- Do not use a period at the end of a fragment bullet point even if it forms a complete sentence with the “stem” that it follows, e.g.:
- Examples of reasonable wear and tear are:
- Faded or peeling paint
- Water stains in the shower
- Small marks, nicks and nail holes in the wall
- Examples of reasonable wear and tear are:
- Do not use semicolons to connect a series of bullet points into a single sentence. Make any and/or conditions clear outside of the bullet point. (For example, start a list with “You are eligible if you are all of the following:” or “You are eligible if you are any of the following:”)
- Capitalize the first word of a bullet point in all instances, e.g.:
- These groups include:
- Low-income people between the age of 18 to 64
- Pregnant women
- These groups include:
- Introductory words or phrases should be offset from the rest of the bullet point text using a period as appropriate. E.g.:
Meaningful anchor text
All links should have meaningful and stand-alone anchor text (the anchor text is the part of the link that the user sees as underlined).
- “Here’s what to do if your landlord sues you for money.”
- OR “You should also consider negotiating with you landlord”
- NOT “For what to do if your landlord sues you for money, click here/ read more/ etc”
- NOT “For what to do if your landlord sues you for money, go to https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OClqRI
Two main reasons for meaningful anchor text:
- It is better for search engine optimization.
- Those using a screen reader to browse the web often navigate by jumping from link to link. If every link says, “click here,” that’s problematic.
Do not include “here” at the end of anchor text. For example,
- “Read more about how to write a parenting plan.”
- NOT “Read more about how to write a parenting plan here.”
More here on meaningful anchor text here: https://www.futurehosting.com/blog/links-should-have-meaningful-anchor-text-heres-why/
Linking readers to forms and resources
On topic pages, if you want to point the user to a category of resources below, you can link them down the page using special links.
If you use this capability, adapt the following language to clarify the intention of that “drawer”:
“If you have eligibility questions, talk to an immigration lawyer. You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under “Legal Help and Lawyers.””
To create that link in Drupal, start like you’re creating a link from that page to itself– click the Link icon, then enter the code below that corresponds to the desired accordion drawer:
- #other-local-resources (this is the currently “government and community resources… name change in the middle of the project)
All links should be tested after drafting and before publishing to make sure they work.
For formatting in article text, use quotes around “Legal Help and Lawyers” and “Local Government and Community Resources” when referring to that drawer of resources on a topic page. Run the hyperlink under the full sentence.
- You can find nonprofits that offer free legal help in your area on this page under “Legal Help and Lawyers.”
- You can find your clerk of court under “Local Government and Community Resources” on this page.
Use capitalization and quotes around specific OLH tools, like “Find Your Legal Aid” or other similar tools.
- To find your local legal aid, use our “Find Your Legal Aid” tool.
Linking to Forms
If you are linking to a form and it is a statewide form that is applicable to all user’s with a page-specific issue across the state, link directly to the “Form Object” page (identified by “/letters-forms/” in the URL), not the “Forms and Letters” drawer on the topic page.
If OLH offers a location-specific form for each jurisdiction in Ohio, instead, link to the “Forms and Letters” drawer as you would for the lawyers or local government resources drawers.
Creating custom anchor links
For long detail pages (1500 – 2500 words), it may be helpful to add custom anchors within the body of the text to assist with navigation (e.g. How to find your criminal records).
To use this feature:
- Create the anchor. Highlight the heading that you want to serve as the anchor link destination, and hit the flag/”anchor” option in the formatting tool bar. Enter the anchor name—this is a reference title that must end with “-anchor”. E.g., “step1-anchor”
- Create the link. Highlight the text you want to serve as the anchor link, select “Link to anchor in the text” under “link type” and select the anchor name that you wish to be the destination.
Grammar, Mechanics and Punctuation
Ohio Legal Help uses Associated Press, or “AP,” rules to guide our writing. A general Google search that includes “AP style” in the question will usually give you the right answer. Here are some common tips pulled directly from the AP stylebook:
For text used as a headline, only capitalize the first word and proper nouns.
AP Style exception: Numerals
Use digits for all instances.
In a range, separate numbers with the word “to”:
- “Usually lenders wait 90 to 120 days from your first missed payment.”
- “Follow up with the court 2 to 3 business days later.”
- “This means a benefit of $12 to $16 per person.”
For fractions, use digits in most cases, but spell out “half”:
- “at 2/3 of your regular rate of pay”
- “Half of this credit can be paid in advance.”
- “The child must provide less than half of their own support.”
For ordinals (first, second, third, etc.), spell out the words instead of using digits.
- “Your second and third payments can’t be garnished.”
At the beginning of a sentence, spell out numbers:
- “One of the most common ways to collect payment…”
Use a hyphen as needed:
- “15-day letter”
- “3-day notice”
Commas in a series
Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series. See the AP stylebook for exceptions.
The flag is red, white and blue.
Leave a single space between sentences.
AP Style exception: Telephone numbers
Format telephone numbers with the area code in parentheses as follows: (555) 555-5555.
Use a dash (—), not one or two hyphens (-) (–), to separate a phrase or series within a sentence. Use one space before and one space after the dash.
“These are examples of damage you can — and should — prevent.”
Use numbers without st, nd, rd or th. For example, use Aug. 20 (not Aug. 20th). Abbreviate the months of Jan., Feb., Aug. Sept. Oct., Nov. and Dec. when used with specific dates but not when used alone or with only a year.
- “On Aug. 20, 2021, the program ended.”
- “You must apply before August 2022 to qualify.”
- “Apply before Jan. 1 each year.”
Abbreviations and acronyms
In most cases, write the full name of an organization on first reference. Use the organization’s acronym only in subsequent references after you’ve given the full name.
- “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a tool you can use. Visit the USDA’s website for more information.”
Exceptions to this rule include FBI and IRS, which are common enough they don’t need to be spelled out on first reference.
- “The IRS has free resources you can use.”
Address one person, not a group
Remember that even though your content may affect a thousand people, you are speaking to the one person who is reading it. When you write to one person, your words have a greater impact.
|Applicants must submit applications at the appropriate offices in the states in which they live.||You must submit your application to the office in the state where you live.|
Use “you” to speak directly to your reader
The easiest way to ensure you’re addressing one person is to use second person, or “you.” This helps the audience picture themselves in the text and relate to your content. Also, they are more likely to understand what their responsibilities are.
|Copies of tax returns must be provided.||You must provide copies of your tax returns.|
Write short sentences
Sentences come under special strains in writing about legal issues. A lot of information has to be squeezed into a tight space. Not only that, legal writing is often filled with abstractions and high-level content. Therefore, there is a tendency to overload sentences and then tie them down with semicolons, dashes, dependent clauses and exceptions.
Yet, the longer the sentence, the less readable it’s likely to be. What’s more, shorter sentences are better for conveying complex information because they break the content up into smaller, clearer units. Therefore, express only one idea in each sentence.
|If there are any points on which you require explanation, we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone.||If you have questions, please call.|
|The court system provides foreign language interpreters and sign interpreters for non-English speaking persons and those who are hearing impaired, free of charge, to ensure that parties can clearly understand proceedings and are able to effectively participate in court programs and services.||The court provides free foreign-language interpreters for people who do not speak English or who are hearing impaired.|
Write short paragraphs
Long paragraphs discourage readers, regardless of literacy or desire to learn, from trying to understand your content. This is especially true on the web. In general, web readers don’t read, they scan.
To help readers scan your content effectively, write short paragraphs. On the web, an ideal paragraph is 1-2 sentences, 3 max.
Use active voice
Avoid passive voice. In active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to it.
|It must be done.||You must do it.|
|The following information must be included in the application for it to be considered complete.||You must include the following information in your application.|
|The application was filed by the tenant.||The tenant filed the application.|
There is one exception to this: Use passive voice when the law is the actor. When one action follows another as a matter of law, and there is no actor (besides the law itself) for the second action, a passive sentence may be the best method of expression. You might also use passive when it doesn’t matter who is doing an action.
If you do not pay the royalty on your mineral production, your lease will be terminated.
Write in the present tense
The simplest form of a verb is present tense. The more you use conditional or future tense, the harder your audience has to work to understand your meaning.
|These sections describe types of information that would satisfy the application requirements of Circular A-110 as it would apply to this grant program.||These sections tell you how to meet the requirements of Circular A-110 for this grant program.|
|The landlord will provide a home in good condition.||Your landlord must provide you a home in good condition.|
Omit unnecessary words
Wordy, dense construction is one of the biggest problems in legal information writing. Nothing is more confusing to a reader than long, complex sentences containing multiple phrases, clauses and exceptions.
However, unnecessary words come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s difficult to place them into distinct categories. The best strategy for cutting the fat out of your writing is to be more critical of your word choices. Here are three techniques to use:
- Flag prepositions. A preposition is often a sign of wordiness. The following are some of the most common, bloated prepositional phrases:
|a number of||several, a few, many|
|a sufficient number of||enough|
|at this point in time||now|
|is able to||Can|
|on a monthly basis||Monthly|
|On the grounds that||Because|
|An amount of X||X|
|Be responsible for||Must|
|In order to||To|
- Check your modifiers. We often use modifiers–also called intensifiers or qualifiers–that we don’t need. Most of the time, you can prune a modifier and your meaning will remain intact.
|It is particularly difficult to reconcile the somewhat differing views expressed by the management team.||It is difficult to reconcile the differing views expressed by the management team.|
- Avoid common wasteful phrases.
|in the event of||if|
|despite the fact that||in spite of|
|take into custody||arrest|
|not in favor||opposes|
|a poll of||poll|
|not yet known||unknown|
Avoid legal, technical jargon
Don’t leave out necessary technical terms, but make sure your words are as clear as possible. Remember that readers don’t know even half of what you know. Try to substitute everyday language for jargon as often as possible.
Don’t write in abstractions
Abstract nouns (e.g. problem, issue, situation, factor, character, process, etc.) are vague and cloud your content.
Lead with the main idea…then explain the exceptions
When you start a sentence with “except,” you likely force the reader to re-read your sentence. Why? Because you are stating an exception to a main idea before you have stated the main idea. There is no absolute rule on where to place exceptions and conditions. Place them where they can be absorbed easily by readers. In general, the main point of the sentence should be as close to the beginning as possible.
Defining Glossary Terms
Ohio Legal Help can create “glossary” terms that highlight a term or phrase in the article, and then shows a definition when the reader clicks on it.
The writers will decide which terms should be glossary terms when they draft the article, draft the definitions, and these definitions will then be considered during the review and revision process. Glossary terms should not be used in headings.
To create a glossary term in Drupal:
- In the top Admin menu, go to Structure -> Taxonomy -> Glossary.
- Click the Add Term button at the top left.
- Put the term or phrase to be defined in the “Name” field.
- Put the definition in the “Description” field.
- Ignore everything else; hit the Save button at the bottom.
Please consider the following when creating glossary terms:
- Make sure the term needs to be included at all. Complicated words and terms of art should only be introduced if the reader will need to know them to take the actions recommended in the text (for instance, to file a form or talk to people at the courthouse). Avoid them if you can.
- Glossary terms, once created, are highlighted and shown with the same definition on every page on the site where they appear. That means that we can only use this functionality for unambiguous terms.
- Terms should only be added if the word/phrase appears multiple times. For instance, the name of a form to be filed likely doesn’t have to go into the glossary, as it can be immediately defined in the article
- For terms that are clearly intimidating for our users, and important in the article, we should both have an initial definition of the term in the article (as you typically would if there wasn’t a glossary) and also add the term into the glossary. This will result in one odd sentence per article, where the term is highlighted and defined via the glossary in the very sentence in which the article is defining it (in the same words, if that makes sense, or tweaked for context). We’re okay with this oddity.
- Example plain language definitions can be found from the Read Clearly glossary.
Formatting for Reading Comprehension and Search Engine Optimization
Formatting for Reading Comprehension
The way that information is broken out across a page is important for reading comprehension. Paragraph breaks and bolded words should be used to make scanning easy for the reader. The use of white space and bolded text should be used to highlight the most critical information on a page.
Ohio Legal Help commissioned a study to test narrative, numbered list and frequently asked questions formats and found no statistically significant difference when the same text was presented in the three modes. However, our default policy is to write in a narrative or traditional article style, breaking out lists into bullet points as is appropriate. Sub-group data suggested that narrative format increased comprehension for individuals with lower levels of educational attainment.
Search Engine Optimization
In general, our content will be organically attractive to search engines, as it will be keyword dense, informative and authoritative. However, we want to try to optimize our content so that Google will direct users to Topic pages, which will serve as our main hubs, rather than Detail pages. To do this:
- On Topic pages, we’ll consider what single keyword phrase we think the user is most likely to search on, and use that phrase in the Title of the page– as long as that seems to also work as a user-friendly title (this is not necessary for Detail pages).
- Look for opportunities to link pages to Topic pages (either from one Topic page to another, a Detail page back up to its Topic page, or from a Detail page to a different Topic). When linking, it’s useful for SEO purposes to have the actual text linked be things other than the official name of the page. Feel free to link things like “Read more about what to do when you’re in debt.”
- Never link general phrases that do not provide information about the link, such as “read more.” These types of links are bad for both SEO and those trying to read the page with a screen reader.
Special Content Types
The form assistant is intended to create a user-friendly way to complete and print forms easily, in some cases even from a mobile device. To keep the system as streamlined and user-friendly as possible, you must follow these guidelines when drafting copy for the form assistant pages:
- All page titles should be in the form of a question E.g. “What’s your marital history?” “Where do you live?” “What types of income do you receive?”
- Questions should be formatted as short answers or “yes / no” questions.
- Questions should be written using the second person.
- Field labels should be telegraphic (i.e. Name, rather than “what is your name? or Please enter your name).
- Choices for radio buttons, etc., should not have periods.
In article text, capitalize “Form Assistant” in all uses. Use the lowercase “form” if the word is used on its own.
- “Usethe Poverty Affidavit Form Assistant if you can’t afford the filing fee.”
- “Use this Form Assistant to create a packet of documents.”
- “Use this form to file an answer if a foreclosure case has been filed against you.”
Appendix A: Common terms and abbreviations
A note on abbreviations and acronyms
A few universally recognized abbreviations are required in some circumstances. Some others are acceptable depending on context. But in general, avoid alphabet soup. Abbreviations and most acronyms should be avoided in headlines.
List of common terms, abbreviations and acronyms
|ABLE||Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.|
|child care||Two words, not “childcare”|
|Community Action Agency||Capitalize in all uses|
|court||Do not capitalize unless referring to a specific court e.g. “Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court.” Follow this convention for court divisions, e.g. “Check your local domestic relations court website.”|
|court room; court house||Two words|
|clerk of court||Do not capitalize unless referring to a specific individual e.g. “Clerk of Court Nailah Byrd.”|
|credit counseling agency (or service)||Do not capitalize unless referring to a specific organization.|
|driver’s license||While the BMV uses “driver license,” AP Style and OLH uses “driver’s license.”|
|internet||lowercase (AP Style)|
|judge||Do not capitalize unless referring to a specific individual e.g. “Judge Gold.”|
|judgment||The legal term is “judgment” not “judgement.”|
|LASC||The Legal Aid Society of Columbus|
|LAWO||Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.|
|lawyer||Ohio Legal Help will use the terms “lawyer” or “lawyers” rather than “attorney” or “attorneys.”|
|legal aid||When referring generally to “your local legal aid,” do not capitalize, but do capitalize the name of a specific organization, e.g. “Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.”|
|magistrate||Do not capitalize unless referring to a specific individual e.g. “Magistrate Jump.”|
|OSBA||The Ohio State Bar Association|
|parties||Avoid use of “party” “parties” as a legal term. Use alternate like “both sides,” or “everyone involved.”|
|pro bono||In the context of Ohio Legal Help, pro bono refers to the donation of legal services by lawyers who are not employed by a legal services organization, such as legal aid. A majority of pro bono services for civil legal issues in Ohio are coordinated by or in partnership with Ohio’s legal aid societies.|
|Pro Seniors||Pro Seniors, Inc.|
|Section 8||Capitalize “Section,” e.g. “Section 8 housing.”|
|SEOLS||Southeastern Ohio Legal Services|
|Social Security number||Capitalize “Social Security” but not “number.” Similarly, use “Social Security card.” For the name of the agency, use Social Security Administration.|
|they/their/them||Acceptable when referring to a singular, indefinite person, e.g. “If a creditor thinks you owe them money, they may sue you.”|
|U.S.||Use U.S. with periods in article text. Use “US” (no periods) in an article title only.|