Web Services

Content Style Guide Launched | Web services blog

This week we are excited to announce the launch of the new Content style guide. Being part of the brand’s website, we have produced the guide so that we can take a clear and consistent approach to all the content we produce.

We have arranged a few basic principles which should be adopted while writing the content:

  • Understand your audience
  • Keep it simple, but don’t patronize
  • Be brief
  • Show as well as tell

Central to these principles is our intention to create content that helps the person read it.

As content creators, we often have to touch topics that can seem quite technical, dry or even bureaucratic. For example, paying taxes, applying for visas, and understanding degree structures would fall into this group to some extent. If we provide this type of information, then we have a responsibility to explain these topics in a way that respects your time, ability and environment.

A useful starting point for this approach is to ask ‘what does the user want to know?‘ Not ‘what I mean?

Clear communication is effective communication. Using simple language shouldn’t be considered as a dumbing down of your content, rather opening it to a whole new audience who might have struggled with more complicated terms.

We often deal with types of content that you might describe as functional or transactional, but these same principles should apply if we write promotional or marketing content.

We should show as well as tell. For example, we know that rankings reflect how great a student experience is at the University of Dundee, but that selling point becomes even more powerful if a student talks about it in a blog post or video.

Inevitably, there will be some cases where it will be difficult to apply all of these principles. When discussing the impact of university research, for example, we might use a quote from an academic that contains specialized language. Of course, one person’s specialized language is another person’s jargon, so we should try to balance that with an explanation of the subject in layman’s terms.

With so much content being produced on our digital and non-digital platforms, it’s important that our internal and external audiences have a consistent experience when using that content. The content style guide should help make this as smooth as possible as it contains guidance on voice and tone, write and a growth reference guide on grammar, spelling and terminology from the University of Dundee.

As a content team, we’ve put a tremendous amount of work into the content style guide, in fact it’s been a labor of love. It’s amazing (or perhaps tragic) how passions grow when satisfied people discuss things like the Oxford comma or semicolon. We believe that words matter. They often make the difference between a good and a bad user experience and this ultimately impacts our reputation as a University.

The guide is by no means exhaustive and we want it to evolve and grow. In a way, creating it is the easy part. The hard work now begins in applying it to our content and getting people to engage with it.

If you have any thoughts or questions regarding the content style guide, you can send an email styleguide@dundee.ac.uk