Voice and tone
The University of Dundee brand - tone and voice.
We're known as a progressive and egalitarian institution. That's demonstrated in the atmosphere on campus, the relationship between staff and students and the level of satisfaction we see in published surveys. It informs the character of our university, giving us a point of differentiation and making us competitive. Our content should reflect this.
By following some simple guidelines, we can speak with a common voice that identifies who we are and defines the relationship between us and our audiences.
Our voice is:
- future focused
Communication is always most effective when the reader feels that she or he is being addressed directly. In some cases, this will mean adopting a more informal tone, and in others something more sophisticated will be required.
Use a tone that meets the expectations of our intended audience. What is their emotional state? What is the context of the communication? For example, our tone may be formal when we are communicating with someone about their undergraduate application or it could be informal if we are replying to a student on social media.
Choose words which are inspiring and encouraging, but realistic and attainable, like 'progress', 'opportunity' and 'future'. Consider using a more positive word where there's a choice, like 'challenge' in place of 'problem'.
Examples of tone
|Type of writing||Intended readership||Tone||Example|
|Press release||Public, external stakeholders, staff, media, students||Direct, impartial||Scientists at the University of Dundee have made significant progress in finding new, precision treatments for patients with oesophageal cancer, one of the hardest forms of the disease to treat.|
|Facebook post||Staff, current and prospective students||Warm, friendly, enthusiastic, engaging||Awww! The Dundee penguins are ready and robed to greet our graduates today!|
|Instagram post||Current and prospective students||Warm, friendly, enthusiastic, engaging||Who's heading out for coffee?|
|Enquirer follow up email||Prospective student||Supportive, helpful||It was great to meet you in India. Deciding where to study is a big decision so we're delighted that you're considering our student community. I've enclosed a little bit more information about Dundee and if you do have any questions, please do email me and I'll be happy to help.|
|Instructions||Students, staff||Clear, helpful, warm, friendly, approachable||Step 3. Power off the device for 2 minutes to allow the system to register your device (we really do mean 2 minutes, go make yourself a cup of tea).|
|Course web page||Prospective students, parents||Engaging, helpful, approachable, positive||We are a small friendly department who offer focused teaching and research in psychology. This means that we get to know our students, and can provide them with the individual support they need throughout their studies.|
We have been a democratic, progressive institution since 1883, when a donation from local benefactor Mary Ann Baxter helped to form University College, Dundee (the forerunner of today's University) and committed the college to equal access to education for women. We continue to embrace these principles of inclusion and equality to this day. From the students' association - voted top in Scotland - to the University Court, we take pride in fairness and accessibility.
At the University of Dundee, your voice counts. Dundee University Students' Association is a hugely engaged partner and there's student representation at virtually every level, making the whole University highly responsive to your concerns and priorities.
University of the Year for Student Satisfaction 2020, and with the country's best university Student Union, Dundee has some of the happiest undergraduates anywhere. And with exceptional employment rates, our graduates and alumni are pretty satisfied too.
Words to avoid
In line with our voice and tone, we try to avoid jargon, specialist terms and overcomplicated language, both in web and print.
Additionally, when writing for the web there are some old habits, such as the use of 'see below' or 'on this webpage...' that are no longer best practice. We've specified when a word or phrase is problematic only on the web.
Our list is not exhaustive, but avoiding these words and words like them will help you to write content that is readable, accessible and concise.
Read more about why we avoid these words and phrases on the University Web Services blog.
- at this point in time (use now)
- caters to/for (if cake isn't provided, it's not catered)
- click here (in a web context)
- due to the fact of (use because)
- facilitate (use help)
- foster (unless it's children)
- former/latter/above/below/respectively (where referencing a location on a webpage)
- impact (except the specialist term in the context of impact and outreach)
- in as short a time as possible (use quickly)
- in order to (use to)
- in the event of (use if)
- please note (emphasise important information visually instead)
- progress (as a verb - what are you actually doing?)
- promote (unless you’re talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
- utilise (use use)
- very, actually, really, just, and similar adverbs
- website (when you mean webpage)