In Issue 1/2024


Tensions can run high when the politicians debate in the chamber of the Danish Parliament, Folketinget. The elected politicians are speaking in many different ways, for example based on professional relations, social relations, age and personal idiosyncrasies. This means that many words, expressions and grammatical choices are different from those indicated by the authorised reference works. To ensure that the politicians are treated fairly and that the reports of the debates reflect their personalities, the Danish parliamentary reporters have an electronic style guide, Sprogbasen, where they can look up those elements which are generally problematic to handle.

In this article, I will give a short introduction to Sprogbasen and how it is used in the Danish Parliament.

An Old Challenge

Ever since the first reports of the proceedings in the chamber were written in the 1850s, there has been a need to standardise spellings and linguistic choices. According to Danish legislation, all public institutions must follow the spelling rules established by the Danish Language Council (Dansk Sprognævn). In many areas, the rules allow freedom of choice between several spellings, but hardly any semantic and grammatical instructions are given.

On the basis of the opportunities available at any given time, the Office of the Folketing Hansard (Folketingstidende) has made auxiliary tools in the shape of long printed lists and sets of rules. With the advent of electronics, some rules were digitised while others remained in print. This led to a substantial collection of reference works in which it took a long time to find one’s way around. In fact, it was sometimes almost necessary to know the answer in advance in order to be able to find it.

Everything Comes Together

In the Office of the Folketing Hansard, there was a strong wish to collect all information about spelling, linguistic choices, and layout in a single work where answers could easily be found with the aid of an intelligent search function. It turned out to be a large task indeed to collect all the many pieces of already existing information in a single complete work. Everything had to be reconsidered and standardised, so that the headings of the entries were brief as well as informative and appropriate. Also, the examples in the reference work had to be completely unambiguous, brief, precise and authentic.

In 2018, everything was thoroughly worked out and digitised, and an electronic reference work was launched. It replaced all existing printed and digitised reference works so that, from 2018 onwards, when the 22 Danish parliamentary reporters write the report of the debates in the chamber as a collective product, there is only one place to look for information.

The Structure of the Style Guide

The style guide is built like a website, and it is based on Sitecore. All the different websites of the Danish Parliament are based on Sitecore so, to ensure consistency with other websites and secure support, Sitecore was chosen for the style guide as well. The style guide itself is structured in three parts, with a section on spelling, a section on editing and a section on formalities.

The Spelling Section

In the spelling section, there are eight subtopics, which are the most dangerous traps for the parliamentary reporters when they transcribe the speech in the chamber into written text. The eight topics are:

  • Punctuation;
  • Numbers or letters;
  • Uppercase or lowercase letters;
  • Foreign expressions;
  • Abbreviations;
  • Double forms;
  • Adverbial endings with or without final -t;
  • Compound or separate words.

Danish punctuation is complicated, and the norms set by the Danish Language Council include a number of free choices, so this topic takes up a lot of space in the style guide. In Danish, it is also very complicated to decide whether words should be written with an uppercase or lowercase initial letter. Likewise, there are many foreign expressions in modern Danish, and most of these words and expressions have not yet made it into the authorised reference works. These works also provide many options regarding spelling, grammatical gender, inflection options, compound options, et cetera, of which the Office of the Folketing Hansard has chosen one to ensure uniformity in the report as a whole.

The formation of adverbs in Danish is complicated. The -t ending is subject to many rules which are not implemented in the spoken language. Therefore, an entire section is dedicated to this challenge. In Danish, the pronunciation may in some cases determine whether something should be written in one or more words whereas, in other cases, the pronunciation is not marked in the written language. There is also a section on this in the style guide.

The Editing Section

The editing section includes the general description of the level of editing in the reports from the debates in the chamber. The report is in principle a verbatim transcription, but the transformation of speech in the chamber into written text requires editing.

In the editing section, there are entries for the level of words and expressions in which there are instructions on what the reporters accept and do not accept in terms of wording and fixed phrases in the report. Throughout the editing section, there are examples of what speakers might say and corresponding examples of what the editing, if any, can be.

The Formalities Section

In the formalities section, there are instructions on how the report should look in terms of graphics, so you could say that the formalities section is a set of layout rules. Line spacing, the layout of voting results and the addition of obligatory text are among the elements for which the rules can quickly and easily be found in the formalities section.

In General

For all entries in all three sections of the style guide, the headings must be succinct so that they are helpful and point precisely to the messages of the entries. All entries include associated examples—in most cases, authentic ones—which precisely address the message that the rule illustrates. In many cases, there are several authentic examples, which each in their own quirky way illuminate the linguistic challenge.

Free Text Search

The style guide allows searching in free text, so you can simply write the word or string of words you are interested in learning more about. In many cases, free text searches give different hits, and you have to look at the suggestions until you find the most appropriate one. For the same reason, it is important that the headings and subheadings of the entries are brief and very precise, as it is these headings and subheadings which are listed when you search in free text.

The searches in free text are intelligent, so spelling or typing errors do not mean that you miss important search results. Likewise, the intelligent search function helps to find results which might be semantically or structurally interesting in relation to the search string.

The Style Guide is a Dynamic Work

Unlike printed reference works, electronic ones are easy to correct. This means that the style guide is dynamic as well.  Once every two weeks, a team of three people from the Office of the Folketing Hansard meets to look at the challenges which the parliamentary reporters have encountered since the last editorial meeting. All users of the style guide have the opportunity to send suggestions for changes and improvements to the editorial team. However, it is mostly the parliamentary reporters who do this. All suggestions are discussed bi-weekly, and when the editorial team is done, the changes accepted at the meeting are implemented during the next two weeks. Afterwards, the editorial team sends out an email to all the reporters and several other users with information on the changes that have been implemented.

The Spelling Section of the Style Guide is Publicly Available

The style guide has been prepared with public funds, and we have decided that the spelling part should therefore also be publicly available at Many companies, translators and journalists, as well as other public authorities, are happy to use the style guide. The editing part and the formality part are not publicly available because, to a very large extent, they concern the work of writing reports et cetera in the Danish Parliament.


Sprogbasen is a digitised language lexicon, which has been developed by and for the parliamentary reporters in the Danish Parliament, Folketinget, who use it daily in their work. To improve and update the content of Sprogbasen, the users give feedback to an editorial staff member in the Office of the Folketing Hansard, who then update Sprogbasen every other week.

It has been a long and difficult process to establish the digitised language lexicon, but it has been worth the big effort. Sprogbasen is now available also to users outside of the Danish Parliament, and more and more people use it.

Michael Ejstrup is an editor at the Danish Parliament, Folketinget. He has a PhD. in phonetics; has been an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Aarhus; has been the head of research at the Danish School of Media and Journalism; and has written several books about linguistics and rhetoric.


Sprogbasen. The Danish Parliament. URL:

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