Voice and tone

Our 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:

  • progressive
  • ambitious
  • confident
  • egalitarian
  • future focused
  • inclusive

Tone

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 writingIntended readershipToneExample
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.

Messaging themes

Strong ranking performance

Dundee was Scottish University of the Year 2016 and 2017 and rated number one in Scotland for student experience, six years running. But it's not just at home that our University is building an exceptional reputation. We're consistently at the top end in world rankings, and firmly in the global top 200. In 2016, Times Higher Education ranked us in the world's top 20 universities under 50 years old.

A practical focus

Dundee has always been a hard-working city, and the University is equally happy to roll up its sleeves and get busy. We're known for practical disciplines like law, architecture, biomedical sciences and design. More theoretical subjects like philosophy and astrophysics are here too - but whatever you study, as one of our graduates you'll be well set for the jobs market.

The best of old and new

Scotland has ancient universities and new institutions, all with their own strengths and specialisations. Dundee is a little different from the rest. We became an independent university fifty years ago, bringing several much older schools and colleges together. We may not be steeped in tradition, but we've been around long enough to earn serious international respect for teaching and research. At Dundee, you get the best of old and new in one great university.

Interdisciplinary and collaborative

We like to work together at the University of Dundee. Our compact, self-contained campus creates a great sense of community, and that's reflected in the way different departments and disciplines collaborate in teaching and research. Our graduates need to be prepared to shape the world in which they live, not simply fit into pre-defined roles using pre-defined skills. This argues for less emphasis on disciplinary boundaries and more collaboration, flexibility, and a wider set of attributes reflecting employability, enterprise, an entrepreneurial approach and a world view.

A university city

Dundee is Scotland's fourth largest city. With an overall population of about 150,000, it has one of the highest student ratios of any town in Britain. It's geared for university life, and settling in is easy. You'll feel at home in no time - and as a bonus, it's one of the least expensive cities in the UK.

Future focused

It might be small, but Dundee is growing. It's a major centre for creative and hi-tech industries, accounting for 10% of the UK's digital entertainment industry. It's Britain's first and only UNESCO City of Design. The northern outpost of the V&A Museum will open here, in a breathtaking new building, in 2018. All this is drawing young professionals and business investment into the city - and once they're here, people love it so much they don't want to leave.

A community campus

The campus at University of Dundee is safe, compact and concentrated - everything you need is within a few minutes' walk at most. Yet we don't live on an isolated estate like some other institutions. Step outside our campus and you're right in the middle of Dundee's buzzing West End. We're at the heart of a city with a great big heart.

Study in the UK

The UK is a great place to go to university, with a world-class reputation for academic excellence. Dundee is part of that national culture, yet as a small city it remains affordable, friendly and safe compared to larger conurbations. While you're here, the beautiful countryside and coast of Scotland is on your doorstep and the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are all within a couple of hours' travel. Trains and low-cost flights will take you to London and other destinations in Europe quickly and - if you shop around - cheaply.

The experience

Progressive values

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.

Student voice

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.

Student satisfaction

Voted number one in Scotland for student experience six years running, 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)
  • click here (in a web context)
  • due to the fact of (use because)
  • empower
  • equip
  • facilitate (use help)
  • foster (unless it's children)
  • formative/summative
  • 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)
  • initiate
  • innovative/state-of-the-art
  • leverage
  • overarching
  • 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)