Style Guide

Voice & Tone

Beyond grammar and comprehensive writing, the Southwestern voice is a reflection of our personality. This unified tone reassures potential students, parents, employees, and current students alike that whether they are exploring campus for the first time or returning as an alumni 10 years after graduation, they are dealing with the same organization — one that dedicates itself to furthering the genesis of original thought and establishing intellectual practices that lead to deep understanding and ultimately innovation.

 

Our Voice

Confident: As a top-ranked school, we aren’t afraid to admit when we are the best at something, but we avoid coming across as arrogant.

Positive: We are future-facing and therefore always exhibiting an optimistic outlook.

Friendly and Collaborative: We are an elite group but remain accepting and welcoming to others.

Intelligent: We explain things in a clear way, but don’t oversimplify and have an expansive vocabulary.

 

Writing Tactics

The writing tactics outlined in this section will help you learn how to write in the Southwestern voice.

  • Stay keyed into who your audience is and what their needs are. Rather than focusing on the actual product or service, highlight the benefits first. Let them know what’s in it for them.

    • Correct:
      Students develop critical thinking skills that lead to original thinking, and creating new knowledge through a distinctive curriculum where students explore ideas through different perspectives.
    • Incorrect:
      Through a distinctive curriculum, students examine ideas from different perspectives and develop the critical thinking skills that lead to original thinking, and seeing and creating new knowledge.
  • Friendly, approachable, subject matter expert. Use professional, direct language, but don’t come across as stuffy or uptight. A professional, yet lightly casual tone will give confidence to readers, but still instill a sense of comfort and inclusion. The second paragraph feels cold and businesslike. It lacks enthusiasm and energy and is far less supportive or encouraging.

    • Correct:

      Explore the stories of these alumni who have shown passion and success in their field and who are making an impact on the worldwide community. As a Southwestern undergraduate, you can join the alumni network mentoring program for support in your academic journey.

    • Incorrect:

      Southwestern alumni are highly employable and impactful in their relevant fields of employment across the world. As an undergraduate student at Southwestern, you may sign up for the alumni network mentoring program for support during enrollment.

  • Drive the point home early. Let readers get to the important information as soon as possible. Don’t be vague or describe things too broadly. Always choose clarity over generalization. A clear tone is more impactful and succinct.

    • Correct:

      Southwestern prepares you for the careers of the future. Career paths are changing rapidly and our breakthrough curriculum has evolved in tandem to set you apart.

    • Incorrect:

      Traditionally, higher education has always focused on training students to become experts in their chosen fields. This model may have worked in the past, but the world has changed dramatically, and as a college graduate, your career path with be like no other in history.

  • Make it clear what you want users to do next. When a call to action is clearly defined, the overall experience is simplified and easier to use. Whenever possible, links should always appear on the page separate from the body copy for ease of use.

    • Correct:
      Students who successfully complete advanced coursework are eligible to apply for membership to Pi Delta Phi, the National French Honor Society for students at accredited colleges and universities.
      — PI DELTA PHI INFORMATION
    • Incorrect:
      Students who successfully complete advanced coursework are eligible to apply for membership to Pi Delta Phi, the National French Honor Society for students at accredited colleges and universities.
  • Active voice is more dynamic and easier to read. It makes your meaning clear for users, and keeps the sentences from becoming too complicated or wordy. Active voice is when the subject performs the action, vs passive where the action is performed upon the subject.

    • Correct:

      Southwestern inspires and nurtures the ability to see things differently, question the status quo, have effective (or positive) failure and embrace the possibility of multiple answers.

    • Incorrect:

      The ability to see things differently, question the status quo, have effective (or positive) failure and the embrace the possibility of multiple answers is inspired and nurtured by Southwestern.

  • Engage readers on an emotional level. Bring a personal touch to Alumni success stories, give contextual examples of why smaller class sizes are better, etc. Show benefits through storytelling. Alumni success stories or anecdotes from current students are a great way to accomplish this.

    • Correct:

      “The first moment I walked onto this campus as a prospective student, I knew Southwestern was home. It was so real, so genuine.”

    • Incorrect:

      Most students who visit Southwestern’s campus decide to call Southwestern home.