University printed materials can include brochures, fliers, recruitment pieces and more.
- Know your audience. We have many: high school students, parents, alumni, donors, working professionals…and they each may respond best to a different writing approach, tone or word choice.
- Avoid jargon. Universities have a lot of internal terms that an outside audience may not understand. Try to be as simple and direct as possible; if you must use terms that you didn’t understand before you became familiar with higher education, explain them.
- Be consistent and professional. Each print piece WSU produces helps reinforce the university’s image. Edit carefully to avoid errors and typos. And remember: “professional” does not mean “boring.” We want to engage our audiences—if your piece is a suitable place to use humor or be a little off-beat, go for it!
Whether you're writing for a website, emails, digital ads, or social media, online readers are looking for information or wanting to complete a task—our job is to help them find what they’re looking for ASAP.
- Keep it short and simple. Know your main points before you start writing, so you can get right to them. Paragraphs shouldn’t contain more than two or three short sentences.
- Avoid jargon. Universities have an internal language that a general audience may not understand. Be as simple and direct as possible; write about “what you’ll learn” instead of “student outcomes.” Try to use keywords that you think readers will be looking for.
- Write for scanning, not reading. Don’t make people pick important information out of a long paragraph; break your info into chunks that people can scan quickly. Use headlines, subheads, bullet points and ordered lists to help them find what they want.
- Replace words with images. Is there a chart that will help you present a point more quickly than words? That’s far more likely to catch a user’s eye and help them retain the information.
- Write to your readers. Website language should be professional and conversational—write as if you were speaking directly to a person, using “you” language rather than third-person references (“the applicant must …”).
At WSU, we communicate with many different audiences: high school students, parents, alumni, donors, working professionals … in your digital communication, you may be reaching all of these at once, so keep your writing simple and straightforward. However, if you have a website, email, ad or post directed at a specific group (donors, for example), you can tailor your writing style and word choice to better connect with those readers.
More information: How to Write for the Web