Copywriting guidelines

As campus communicators we often wear many hats, requiring us to shift from one writing style to another throughout the day.

Regardless of how much writing experience you have, it can be helpful to revisit some foundational copywriting best practices. Depending on your background, you can think of these tips as a refresher or a crash course to help shift your writing style from general communications or journalistic writing toward marketing. (We’ll also be offering workshops to cover this topic more thoroughly and tailor it to your needs!)

  • Use relatable, conversational, everyday language (read it aloud – if someone wouldn’t say it, don’t write it)
  • Keep sentences short and to the point, while also varying the length of sentences for contrast
  • Talk to the reader directly, using “you” to address them
  • Cut overly academic speak and anything that could be read as patronizing or pretentious
  • Break up long blocks of text into shorter, digestible paragraphs
  • Use graphic elements like subheadings, pull quotes, strategically chosen bold text and captions to make your content more compelling and easier to skim
  • Rather than tell your audience what you want them to know, show them through stories and specific examples that bring your key points to life
  • Use facts, figures, quotes and other concrete examples to back up claims
  • Write with empathy to ensure that your audience and their goals are driving your message and delivery (what might they be thinking, feeling or wondering as they approach your marketing piece?)
  • Move from features to benefits (ie: don’t stop with what your unit or program offers, include why it matters to your audience – why they should care and how they will benefit)

For all other style issues not covered here, follow the Writing Style Guide on the Public Affairs site.