Form headings and identifications

Most forms used by the public or sent outside a department, and some forms used internally, need a brief but informative title. This title should make the purpose or function of the form self evident; for example, the title ‘Application by Pensioner for Tobacco Duty Relief’ is better than ‘Finance Act, 1947’.

When it is necessary to refer to legislation or statutory instruments in the title, this detail can be placed under the name of the form in smaller type.

If references to legislation have to be made in the notes or instructions on the form it may be unnecessary also to refer to legislation in the heading. Legal and departmental jargon should be avoided in the title wording.

The title of a form used by the public should be placed at the top of the form. The titles of internal forms can sometimes be placed in a binding margin, so that the heading or edge of the form is left clear for frequently used reference entries, e.g. case numbers in the top right hand corner of a card index etc.

All forms used by the public or those handled or distributed by the Post Office, or HM. Stationery Office on behalf of departments require the name of the originating department to facilitate identification. On many of these forms the name of the department is best placed at the top of the form, but should not be prominent enough to overshadow the form title; it can appear in smaller type than that used for the form title and need not always be placed in the centre at the top of the form.

If the originating department’s address is included to show where the form or enquiries are to be sent, it may be possible to eliminate or reduce separate reference to the name of the department elsewhere on the form, e.g. when the departmental address appears on a postal folder form, or when the address is included in an instruction near the heading.

A form-numbering system aids storage and distribution. A form number may also help members of the public-to distinguish one form from another of similar appearance. The form title and number provide sufficient means of identification for most forms, and special code names or short titles should not usually be necessary.

When a new system for identifying forms is being devised, it may be helpful to arrange that the form numbers etc. should indicate origin or purpose. The form identification might be made up of two items:

  1. A prefix-number or letter indicating the Branch originating the form, or the procedure in which the form is used, e.g. S for Stores Branch, E for Establishment.
  2. A number for each form of the series, e.g. an Establishment Record Card might be E.14.

When necessary revisions or new editions of existing forms can be indicated by a suffix-letter or number, e.g. E.14(a), or by showing the year of revision, e.g. E.14./(1959)

Continuation sheets can be given a suitable suffix, e.g. R.48A to link it with the main form R.48.

Practice relating to the placing of form numbers varies but storekeepers prefer either the bottom left or right hand corner and consistency in placing. However when the form used by the public is referred to by the number as well as the title, the number is usually best placed boldly in the top right hand corner of the form.

Distinctive marks or symbols may sometimes be used to identify forms or make sorting or selection easier and the form of the symbol and its position on the form will depend on its purpose.

The use of the Garter Arms, St. Edward’s Crown, the Royal Emblem, or a departmental badge may provide a useful distinguishing ‘trade mark’ for some documents, or enhance the appearance of certain forms used by the public; advice about

6 examples of form headings.
First three sections have lots of information next to each other with no spacing between them. For example, Application for a licence to drive a Motor Vehicle right next to “Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations, 1950 (as amended)”.
Fourth and fifth section has minimal information with propr spacing so it’s easier to understand them.
For example: Application for a certificate of Fitness next to Ministry of Transport Road Traffic ACTS, 1930 to 194.
Section 6 reads “Ministry of Agriculture And Fisheries, Diseases of Animals ACTS, Sheep Scab Order of 1938, Form G”
If the heading of a form is cluttered up with detail it may make it look forbidding and unnecessarily complicated (1, 2 and 3); if a title can be introduced as a simple and clear heading the form may have a more effective impact on those who use it (4 and 5); the name of the department rarely needs to be very prominent and a title indicating the purpose of the form would have been better than a series of references to laws (6) using the Royal Arms, the Scottish Royal Arms, the Arms of Northern Ireland and the Welsh Garter, is given in H.M. Stationery Office Guide: Part 2, Standards for Authors and Printers.

Printing not essential to the day-to-day use of the form should be placed in ‘dead’ space or the binding margin of the form, as (for example) H.M.S.O. ‘imprint’ particulars about quantity, year of production etc.

The printing of a number on each form in a set is the usual method of identifying forms produced as a set, e.g. advice notes, delivery notes, packing slips. The numbers are generally printed on each copy of the form as it is produced, but they can be added by means of a hand numbering stamp or machine when the form is used, if small quantities only are involved.

The printing of serial numbers (with or without prefixes), in sequence upon each form produced, e.g. as is often done for receipt books, complicates the printing process and adds to the cost. The numbers are printed from special ‘numbering heads’, and it may not be technically convenient to print a serial number in some parts of the form. By placing the number in the top right hand corner of a form, the top and right margins can provide the space for the numbering head, whereas other positions involve greater loss of the usable area on the form.

Copies of a form distinguished by bold numbers. The serial number of the set is repeated on these five forms. All copies printed throughout in black in
Copies of a form distinguished by bold numbers. The serial number of the set is repeated on these five forms. All copies printed throughout in black ink