Writing Guidelines

The following writing guidelines are designed to assist Mays faculty, staff and student workers in writing copy that will promote the school’s brand, programs, centers and services in print, email, web or other digital channels. The purpose of these guidelines is to: 1) simplify the task of writing promotional copy for Mays employees, and 2) strengthen the Mays brand by ensuring our constituents are presented with clear, concise and high-quality copywriting whenever they encounter the Mays brand.

NOTE: These writing guidelines complement, but are different from, the Usage and Style Guidelines for digital communications also found in the Mays Branding Toolbox. The purpose of those guidelines is to ensure we use consistent stylistic conventions that are professional and representative of the Mays brand (e.g., Mays Business School instead of the Mays Business School, and Full-Time MBA program instead of Full Time MBA Program).

Audience

  • Before you start writing, be sure to define your audience(s), including things such as their age, education level and personal/professional interests, as well as what they know about Mays and what they think about your program, center or service.

 

Objectives

  • Determine what kind of impact you want to have on your audience.
  • Do you want to make them aware of something new, change their behavior or prompt them to take a specific action?
  • How will you measure the success of your communications?

 

Messaging

  • Consider the single most important message you want your audience(s) to take away from your communication, and be sure to convey that message in the headline and/or first sentence or paragraph.

 

Structuring Your Communication

  • Outline the key points you want to convey and organize them in the most logical sequence that will ensure comprehension by your audience(s).
  • Try to introduce only one major point per paragraph, followed by sentences that elaborate on the main point or provide examples of the main point.
  • Use clear subheads if you’re including multiple sections of copy on different topics.
  • Convert long lists of things within a single sentence (e.g., a list of eight steps) into a single bullet list or numbered list.

 

Crafting Your Content

  • Write shorter sentences instead of longer sentences, as they’re easier to read and comprehend.

Look for opportunities to break long sentences into shorter ones.

  • Use active voice (subject > verb > object) instead of passive voice (object > verb > subject).

For example: Employees can access the training document by clicking on the following link.

Instead of: The training document can be accessed by employees by clicking on the following link.

  • It’s OK to use a friendly, informal voice.

For example: The MS in Finance program staff is committed to developing confident, competent and coachable graduates who distinguish themselves from their peers in the highly competitive finance industry. We encourage applicants to contact us if they have any questions about the program.

  • Try to write your copy as clearly and concisely as possible.

If some part of a sentence is not necessary, delete it.

  • Look for opportunities to tell stories about current students, faculty or staff as well as donors or alumni instead of writing in the Mays third-person narrator’s voice.

Personal narratives—told in the authentic voices of our constituents with quotes, real-life challenges and actual results or accomplishments—are more powerful than Mays talking about Mays.

  • Be sure to include clear and concise calls to action (e.g., Apply Now, Request More Info, Make a Gift).