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General writing tips

We recognize the value of consistent communication to, and with, our many audiences. Messages need to be clear, accurate and concise. The words we use should reflect our promise to developing strength and capacity through research, innovation and partnerships. But most importantly, our words should be easily understood by everyone.

  • Write for the audience

    Audiences for our news stories are likely very broad. Readers may not have much knowledge about a research topic and may not be familiar with specific terminology or related jargon. We need to make it as easy as possible for readers to be interested in the story.

    Consider why the information would be important to someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic. Use words an average audience can understand and be sure to eliminate jargon that can alienate readers.

    A good rule of thumb: find out whether someone would be able to re-tell the story accurately in basic terms after reading it. 

  • Don't bury the most important information

    We live in a sea of information with individuals who have ever-shortening attention spans. If you want people to take something away from your story, be sure to get to the point via your headline and first sentence. If you leave the most important information until the end, your reader may never get there. 

  • Less is more

    There are many guidelines for effective online communications, but in general, basic website stories should be no longer than 300 to 400 words. Ideal headlines are six words.

    Always re-read draft copy aloud to ensure the words flow properly. If you are out of breath when reading a paragraph, re-write it using shorter sentences. 

  • It’s not about the university, it’s what the university is about

    Although university discoveries, milestones and funding announcements are important pieces of information to share, powerful stories don’t just convey basic details. They resonate with the reader and teach them something they didn’t know before.

    Readers are more inclined to remember someone’s passion than a specific milestone. Find a strong human element or emotional connection to hook your readers into a story.

  • Storytelling models

    We follow two different storytelling models designed to help writers identify a hook to engage readers.

    1. The MARS model:

      Tell stories by answering these questions in the order below:

      • Motive: What is the problem that needs to be addressed/solved?
      • Action: What are we doing about it?
      • Results: What are the results that our solution produces?
      • Success: What is the conclusion that ties in with the original motive?
    2. The Golden Circle:

      Leadership expert Simon Sinek's TED Talk explores the idea of the Golden Circle, a way of thinking about human decision-making that explains why some stories resonate with us more than others do. Sinek urges writers to begin stories by explaining why a problem needs to be solved to appeal to the values and emotion of an audience before explaining what we’ve done or how we’ve done it.

  • Remember the medium

    If you're creating an electronic invitation to an event (evite), keep it short, and don’t forget the where/when details.

    If you're writing a social media post, remember to include items like Twitter or Instagram handles and hashtags (#), as required. This will help you better reach your target audience.