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Borger.dk - the national citizen portal - leads the way regarding language in public sector communication

30-01-2017 News UK

According to the Danish Language Council, borger.dk has a great deal of influence on the language that is used in the way the public sector communicates with Danish citizens. The Language Council has, therefore, invited borger.dk to participate in a project intended to strengthen the public sector communication with citizens.

"Borger.dk influences the norms for language in public-sector communication with the public. The portal is an absolutely key platform, both because of the fact that it has on its own over 36 million visitors a year but also because a number of municipalities import content from the portal," says Ms. Sabine Kirchmeier, Director of the Danish Language Council. She continues: 
"It is particularly the citizens who are the recipients of the language on borger.dk. But the editors in other public authorities who write for the portal also learn to write in a particular way in accordance with borger.dk's writing guidelines. Borger.dk is therefore an authority within the language directed at the public, and together borger.dk and the Danish Language Council can help each other in strengthening public sector communication in general.”

"By including a representative from borger.dk, we also better understand how the portal works, in strictly organisational terms, across the public sector. We get an insight into the editorial model for collaboration involving all government authorities that are responsible for writing for the portal. In this sense, we can benefit greatly from borger.dk's experience with, for example, working with quality control of language across various public authorities," says Sabine Kirchmeier. She thus emphasises the fact that borger.dk is a very important platform in the co-operation regarding a common public sector language targeting citizens.

Consistency and words you can understand 

According to Ms. Kirchmeier, it is a problem if consistency is lacking in the language of the public sector's communication with citizens.

"User journeys where a citizen starts at one place on a public website and is guided on to another authority's website are not seen to be homogenous if the language does not follow along. There has to be consistency in the language so that citizens encounter the same terms across the public sector. Things need to be called the same thing. This is where borger.dk comes into the picture. 

Ms. Kirchmeier concludes by saying that "borger.dk translates, for example, the legislative language jurists have used into a language that is easier to understand and that calls things what the public calls them. For example, child maintenance is most often called 'child support' in common usage. The translation of complex language is an important task which borger.dk carries out well. The Danish Language Council has therefore recently launched a research project that is to take an in-depth look into how this conversion process actually takes place, and it is important for us that borger.dk is included when it comes to collecting knowledge about communication directed at the public.

Participation since 1975

That the Danish Agency for Digitisation is a member of the Danish Language Council's board of representatives stems all the way back to the Agency for Government Information in 1975, which later became both the Agency for Government Information Services and the Agency for Government Information, which later became the National IT and Telecom Agency, in which borger.dk was developed and launched. In 2011, the National IT and Telecom Agency was abolished, and borger.dk was transferred to the Danish Agency for Digitisation. But membership in the Danish Language Council's board of representatives has continued and its membership is a part of the "Act on the Danish Language Council's Activities and Composition" (Bekendtgørelse om Dansk Sprognævns virksomhed og sammensætning).

Bekendtgørelse om Dansk Sprognævns virksomhed og sammensætning
Dansk Sprognævns hjemmeside (“Act on the Danish Language Council's Activities and Composition” - in Danish only)


Find out more and sign up for upcoming events about language use in the public sector that the Danish Language Council has planned:


Klart sprog hos offentlige institutioner - nye rådgivningstilbud fra Dansk Sprognævn?  - 7.2.2017 (“Clear Language in Public Institutions -- New Counselling Options from the Danish Language Council” - in Danish only)

Konference: "Sprog og kommunikation i digital borgerbetjening" - 4.5.2017
(Conference: "Language and Communication in Digital Citizen Service" - in Danish only)