University Writing Style Guide

Purpose of the Writing Style Guide

University Relations has established this style guide for use in non-academic, promotional written communications including news releases, newsletters, web pages, brochures, viewbooks and fliers that include narrative or running text. A more formal style may be desired for invitations, event programs, letters and for other uses.

About the University's Style Guide

This guide is based on the principles found in the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. Despite the scope of editorial style contained in the AP guide, it doesn't address some issues unique to the University of Northern Colorado that are frequently encountered. This style guide is intended to provide answers to those issues, and to a lesser extent, other questions of grammar such as punctuation, capitalization and acceptable word usage.

On spelling matters, our preferred resource is Webster's New World Dictionary.

Why We Use the AP Style Guide

Because it is widely used by newspapers and magazines, AP style is familiar to readers, easy to read and makes sense.

How to Get the AP Style Guide

Copies of the AP Stylebook and Libel Manual can be purchased at www.apstylebook.com or through AP Newsfeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020. Online subscriptions also are available.

Why Have a University Style Guide?

Having a common style for our communications assists us in projecting a cohesive, coordinated image to the public.

Words of Wisdom about Writing

Remember, for editorial issues that can't be resolved by a stylebook, let common sense and an appreciation for the reader be your guide.

For More Information

If you have questions, would like more information or have a suggestion for future revisions of the style guide, contact UNC's Office of University News & Public Relations at 970-351-2331 or public.relations@unco.edu.            

Tips for Writing Effective Copy

Note: Messaging created for UNC's electronic and print communications should support the university's brand identity. Copy should reflect the themes described in the brand messages, while the tone of messages should reflect the qualities described in the brand identity.

1. Know your audience and write copy that addresses your audience's needs. Are you writing for 18-year-olds? Parents? Graduate students? Regardless, make sure your copy addresses that audience's needs.

2. When you've finished writing your copy, pretend you're the audience and ask: "So what? Why should I care?" If your copy doesn't pass this test, it won't be very effective with your target audience. If you show the audience how they will benefit from your program, event, etc., it will be effective.

3. Write compelling copy that is to the point. We live in a time when audiences are overwhelmed with the amount of information they receive. Writing shorter copy increases the possibility that audiences will read and retain messages. Use bullet points rather than long narrative text for key messages. Break long blocks of copy into several shorter paragraphs.

4. Consider all of the media you can use to communicate and use them. For example, all of the information about a program or activity doesn't necessarily need to be included in a print publication. Additional information can be incorporated on a website.

5. Use headlines to get the reader's attention and deliver information. Use action words; don't settle for a label. Instead of writing a headline reading "A Message from the Dean" (label), use verbs to highlight a point from the dean's message: "New Program to Meet Needs of Working Law Enforcement Personnel."

6. Include a call to action. It's what moves your audience from being passive prospects to taking the next step to becoming a customer. Tell them exactly how they can obtain more information, sign up for a class, or purchase a service.

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