The Writer's Voice

Campus communicators are storytellers. We tell stories not only to inform readers and listeners but also to inspire and empower others. A few pointers about the appropriate voice for telling U of G stories:

  1. Write clearly. Much academic and administrative text may contain high-level vocabulary, jargon and complex sentence structure. Campus communicators should strive for clear, plain language and text suitable for general readers on or off campus. Reserve overtly academic or formal language for specific circumstances where it meets the needs of the audience.
  2. Be conversational. Where possible, substitute long words and sentences with short, familiar words and short sentences (fewer than 20 words, on average). At the same time, respect readers’ intelligence. Varying sentence length – even writing occasional sentences with fewer than half a dozen words — helps prevent boredom. Try it.
  3. Prefer the active voice to the passive voice, which may promote ambiguity or vagueness. Use the passive voice sparingly to vary sentence structure or to emphasize the important part of the sentence or story: A U of G professor was awarded the prize.
  4. Define jargon or – better — replace it outright with more everyday words. Avoid buzzwords, euphemisms and clichés (moving forward, world-class) like the proverbial plague.
  5. Think about the point of the Improve Life story you are telling. What’s the desired outcome or action? Are you aiming to entice prospective students to enrol at U of G? Are you highlighting a recent success? Why are you telling the story at this time, and to this audience?
  6. Humanize the story. Who is the main character? Show or tell why a professor’s discovery or a student’s accomplishment will make the world a better place.
  7. Make the story personal. Why should your story matter to the audience? How does it fit their needs? Tell and show them how and why. In order to give your story real-world relevance, find ways to connect it with popular culture or current events and activities. How does this story “improve life”?
  8. Avoid overburdening stories with data or department/college/University messaging. Use this information to write an interesting, useful story that connects to the Improve Life narrative.