Writing Tips and Best Practices
You can help audiences feel better connected to the South Carolina story by creating
smart, compelling content that draws their attention and keeps them engaged. Here
are a few best practices to keep in mind when writing university communications.
Know your audience.
Identify the audience you're trying to reach, or nothing you say will reach them.
Focus on one clear message.
Emphasize a single message, and get to the point as quickly as possible. Use clear, direct statements to capture your reader's attention and help them retain the information. Support your statements with points of pride.
Show, don’t tell.
Whenever possible, provide specific examples. It’s always more powerful to engage an audience by presenting individual experiences through storytelling than through programmatic language.
Make it personal.
Include real, honest stories of the work the university is doing. Always communicate with authenticity.
Write clearly, and keep your language personable. Aim to communicate to a nonspecialist audience.
Make data matter.
Statistics, rankings and rates of success aren't the story; they are evidence that supports the story. Numbers can add to your message, but they can't take the place of it.
Give the reader something to do.
If you want your reader to take action, be clear and direct: "Make a gift," "apply," "sign up," etc. Make your call to action more personal by using "you" and "your" language.
Make headlines work harder.
A headline might be the only thing an audience reads, so make sure it is informative and leaves them with a takeaway.
Be bold, but not brazen.
We are confident, but not aggressive. Don't be afraid to tell people what we do well, but use language that's warm and inclusive.
Mix it up.
Vary the cadence of your writing. Mix short sentences with longer ones to avoid a repetitive feel. Check for rhythm and flow by reading aloud. Don’t be afraid to write like you speak.
Write for the platform.
Social content needs to be quick and easily digestible. Web content should also be on the shorter side. A long-form, visually compelling print piece can do more storytelling. Long-form web stories need multiple elements — engaging photos, video and/or audio, pull quotes, subheads — to keep the reader engaged.
Don't force excitement — beware of exclamation points.
If the message isn't something you'd yell in person, then don't yell at your audience by using an exclamation point. Exclamation points should be used extremely sparingly, if at all.
When discussing how South Carolina is different from other schools, show the tangible benefits gained by living on our unique campus. Emphasize specific positive examples as much as possible.
Three Writing Traps to Avoid
Stick to well-known abbreviations and minimize the use of acronyms. When using acronyms (first letter of each word), use full caps with no periods.
It’s tempting to rely on the same phrases over and over when communicating, but we don’t want to be limited by only a few ideas. Keep it fresh, and don’t hesitate to be more specific when necessary.
Don’t rely on predictable phrases and tired jargon to express your idea. Instead, pursue ideas that feel new and will make your readers notice what you write.