“Tone” describes the way a written document sounds as you read it to yourself. Tone can be formal or informal, complex or simple, professional or casual. It can be modern, old-fashioned, approachable or remote.
Using UVA’s tone in your promotional writing will help you take advantage of the strength and recognition of the brand. It will also help build greater cohesion and consistency across all University communications.
Eight tone words represent the unique character and persona of the UVA brand:
Adopting the Tone to Your Writing
To adopt this tone in your writing, consider the six following points:
1. Write with simplicity, force and energy. Be brief, ensuring every word, sentence and paragraph contributes to one overarching idea.
More like: In 1819 the University of Virginia established a new model for intellectual exchange and cross-disciplinary collaboration in higher education.
Less like: The year was 1819 when Thomas Jefferson and a cohort of illustrious civic and academic leaders established the University of Virginia. Nestled under the Blue Ridge, this Academical Village set a new benchmark for intellectual exchange and cross-disciplinary educational achievement in the realm of higher education.
2. Be ambitious and creative in your writing. Look for new ways of expressing familiar ideas, and find the interest in your topic.
More like: UVA is rich in hidden nooks, secret hideaways and world-famous vistas.
Less like: Grounds has many attractive locations.
3. Be declarative instead of conditional whenever possible. Use active tense instead of passive, and choose language that exudes confidence.
More like: Jefferson’s Academical Village represented an entirely new approach to higher education, putting knowledge and collaboration above all other considerations.
Less like: Jefferson’s Academical Village is believed by some to represent a new approach to higher education, with relatively greater emphasis on knowledge and collaboration.
4. Address all sides of the story, and make it clear when something is uncertain.
More like: The new process can generate cost savings of up to 35 percent when implemented correctly.
Less like: The new process generates cost savings of 35 percent.
5. Avoid slang and jargon, and define esoteric terms when their use is unavoidable.
More like: Clear writing makes website content (for example, words and numbers) easier to understand.
Less like: Systematic linguistic transparency aids user consumption of digital content.
6. UVA is a special place. In your writing, convey the inspiration we feel for this proud institution.
More like: Serpentine walls sketched by Thomas Jefferson himself hide green sanctuaries of flowers, boxwoods and magnolias.
Less like: Brick walls surround gardens with shrubs and other vegetation.
Adding Your Interpretation
We encourage you to interpret and apply tone as you would a color palette or collection of visual assets. Use your creative sensibilities and promotional goals to decide which elements to employ.
Base your decisions on your audience and the channel you are using to reach them. For example, as shown in the diagram below, you might emphasize certain aspects of the UVA brand when addressing students, and accentuate others when communicating with donors.
You might also adopt a more abbreviated, casual tone for digital channels than you would for print. And a video script will likely be more conversational than a webpage. Your audience and goals should drive these choices.