Agriculture Design System
Design System for the Export Service

Voice and tone

How to say something in the Export Service and how it should sound to our users.


The Australian Government Style Manual offers general advice on voice and tone when creating content for the Australian Government.

You can use this voice and tone guidance to create content in the Export Service.

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What are voice and tone?

Voice and tone are the way you write your content and how it sounds to readers. It’s what conveys the personality of the author. In this case, the author is the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

The use of voice and tone affects how users perceive your content. For example, if your content is formal and officious, users will think that the department is formal and officious.

The goal of content we create for DAFF digital services, is to explain the process of meeting legislation that relates to DAFF. We need to tell our users what they need to do.

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Voice lets users know who content represents, without knowing who the author is. It should be consistent. We should always use the DAFF voice when creating content that represents DAFF.

The voice that we aim for in the Export Service is:

  • clear
  • direct
  • authoritative
  • serious.
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Active voice

‘Active voice’ means that the subject performs an action. On the other hand, ‘passive voice’ means that the subject undergoes the action.

When you write our content, use active voice rather than passive voice. It’s more direct and clearer about what our users need to do to comply with legislation.

That is, use the general pattern of ‘subject-verb-object’ to convey active voice in content.


‘You can apply to register your property as an export establishment.’


‘Your property can be registered as an export establishment.’

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First and second person

First and second person convey who is speaking and who is being spoken to within content. It makes content feel more personal to the user.

Use personal pronouns such as ‘you’ and ‘your’ to refer to the user. Use ‘we’, ‘our’ or ‘us’ to represent DAFF.

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The tone that is represented by DAFF can change and will be different depending on the channel.

As a general guide, use a tone in the Export Service that is:

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It can be tempting when writing about rules and legislation to lighten the mood with humour.

But use humour sparingly - if at all - and carefully. It is subjective and works better in some channels (such as social media), more than others.

Avoid using humour where it might make something less clear.


"Ask us if you need to lodge an application for a proposed new technology.

We need to be sure that we understand the risks attached to introducing a new technology or procedure."


"Applicants may propose alternative procedures or new technology, which may or may not be on the grounds of scientific research and differs from currently accepted and approved science and/or industrial practices within the Australian export meat industry, or those detailed in the relevant Australian Meat Standard.

Clarification from the department should be sought on the need or not to lodge an application for a proposed new technology or procedure where initial indications are that no adverse impact would result from the introduction of the new technology or procedure."

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