Your writing style should suit your target audience whether you are writing for printed publications or the web.
Is your audience young and well-educated?
Or are you writing for people with a limited command of English?
Are you conveying important information?
Or are you trying to engage the interest of a new audience?
The University’s target audiences include:
Members of any of these groups:
People rarely read text word for word, so ensure that the text is easy to scan:
|On numerous occasions||Often|
|Acquaint yourself with||Read|
|In the majority of instances||Most, mostly|
Use ‘you’ rather than eg ‘the applicant’ or ‘the supplier’ because it sounds friendlier and more informal, and reduces word length.
Say ‘we’ instead of ‘The University of York’ or ‘The Department of Physics'.
Instead of: Applicants are reminded that they should please return their completed forms to Heslington Hall.
Write: Return completed forms to Heslington Hall.
Boastful, promotional writing eg ‘best ever’, ‘most popular’, etc is off-putting.
People want to get straight to the facts. It’s easier for users to grasp the meaning of the text when it is written in neutral language.
Using inconsistent terms confuses the reader. If you are writing about a course you are offering, don’t start calling it a programme half-way through.
You can engage the reader’s attention by using active verbs.
It’s better to say ‘The Committee decided to…’ (active) , than ‘a decision was made by the Committee to…’ (passive).
These examples show how turgid text can be if it is written using passive language.
|The implementation of the procedure will take place next week.||The procedure will be implemented next week.|
|We had a discussion about the matter.||We discussed the matter.|
|A request form will be completed by the committee.||The committee will complete a request form.|
|The installation of the new hardware was carried out by a small team.||A small team installed the new hardware.|
A ‘hidden’ verb or a nominalisation is when a noun has been formed from a verb. Eg ‘upon arrival’ rather than ‘when you arrive’.
They name a process, technique or emotion, rather than a physical object.
These examples show how using hidden verbs makes sentences leaden, heavy-going and too long.
|When you arrive||Upon arrival|
|To recover||To make a recovery|
|After completing||Subsequent to completion|
|To introduce||To bring about the introduction of|
|We expect||We have the expectation|
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