The University’s voice reflects the persona of the institution: determined, caring, transformative. When writing about the University of Southern Indiana, you should think of the University of Southern Indiana as a singular human being with one voice—not a fragmented personality that people can’t recognize. You are writing and speaking on behalf of this human personality regardless of the specifics of the message and should adopt that persona.
USI’s persona is defined by three personality types. Each persona type is centered around a set of traits.
- Type 1: determined, proud, resilient and dedicated
- Type 2: caring, hospitable, supportive and inclusive
- Type 3: transformative, innovative, visionary and forward-thinking
Having a consistent voice helps humanize the USI brand and allows the University to take part in conversations and converse more naturally.
Determined & Proud
Tenacious in our commitment to equipping our students for success, which they pay forward in our region and world. We demonstrate a confident sense of identity through unrelenting effort and our far-reaching impact.
Resilient & Dedicated
Adapting to new challenges through perseverance, focus, and inventiveness that breaks through obstacles. USI is united by a common cause and an extraordinary commitment to the success of our students in everything they do.
Caring & Hospitable
Treating every person as an individual with unique gifts, needs, and potential that can grow and flourish through our affirming community. We take pride in the warmth and enthusiasm we bring to every campus visitor and new students, inspiring them through our kindness and generosity.
Supportive & Inclusive
Proactively building powerful systems to nurture the academic, personal, and professional lives of every student. We strive to understand and celebrate differences of every kind, creating a courageously welcoming community that is richer because of our diversity.
Transformative & Innovative
Creating lasting change in the lives of our students through meaningful relationships and academic experiences that catalyze their potential. USI adapts and maximizes every resource to serve our students through inventive partnerships and collaborations.
Visionary & Forward-thinking
Anticipating and meeting the needs of an entire region by taking the long view, seeing the big picture, and spearheading new programs. We seek to embrace progress and overcome challenges by positioning ourselves as a life-changing resource for everyone in our community, region and world.
University Overview Language
A brief summary of the University of Southern Indiana, including the Mission and Vision statements can be found on the About USI website.
Editorial Style Guide
The Associated Press Stylebook is the main editorial reference guide for University communications. However, there are some exceptions to AP Style. Reference the Editor’s Manual for specific cases of writing style that fall outside of AP Style guidelines as well as lists of buildings and places and department names.
The tone is reflected in words chosen to communicate to audiences through various forms of messaging. Tone reflects how the University comes across to others in communication. It reflects the attitudes and overall feel you want the reader to experience. USI copy should come across as friendly, confident, direct and reassuring. USI has a reputation as a welcoming place and one with a sense of family. Writing tone should reflect this.
Tone should not be overly academic, use internal jargon, use higher ed cliches or be sales-like in nature. Copy should be short and to the point but still come across as real and personal. Unlike voice, tone may change depending on the subject matter and audience. The tone of a press release about an upcoming event on campus might be very different from a feature on the legacy of a long-time faculty member. Likewise, a social media post might have a different tone than a printed recruitment brochure.
Consider when writing:
Content type: What are you writing?
Reader: Who are you talking to in this scenario?
Message intent: Why are we writing this message, i.e. to inform, entertain, encourage action?
Reader feelings: What’s the reader feeling when they are in this tone scenario?
Your tone should be: Use adjectives that describe how you should sound in this scenario.
Write like this: Give a brief example of how the writing should sound.
Tips: Explain best practices of writing for this scenario.
Here’s an example of how this template might be used in practice:
Content type: Instagram story
Reader: Prospective student looking at the University
Message intent: Introduce to USI, encourage to visit website
Reader feelings: Eager and engaged to find interesting content and information about the University
Your tone should be: Welcoming, informative, clear, approachable
Write like this: “Did you know at USI you’ll be part of small classes with engaged faculty who care about your future? Follow the link to hear more about rewarding faculty student connections.”
Tips: Use lots of questions. Avoid sounding authoritative. Invite others to learn and discover. Refer back to persona (Voice) words.
Writing for the Right Audience
Consider your audience and the tone that best fits it. The way you talk to a prospective student may be very different than the way you talk to an alum or donor.
When writing web or promotional content, aim for a high school reading level. You are not writing for engaged college graduates, rather, you may be writing for:
- High school students
- Parents and grandparents of high school students (some of whom may have less education)
- Non-native English speakers
- A distracted audience (Families, jobs, outside influences)
Audiences to keep in mind
- Prospective students
- First-time new in college students
- First generation students
- Adult learners
- International students
Sometimes these audiences may overlap and you will have to use the Tone that best appeals to the broader group.
A few other notes about Tone:
- Your tone should feel authentic, not forced.
- Use caution when trying to be funny or cute. Done wrong, this can be off-putting to your audience.
- Usability and readability should be priorities. Remember that readers are often in a hurry and only skimming content.
Writing in Second or Third Person
There is time and place for both second person and third person in writing for various purposes. For example, web or other recruitment content directed toward prospective students would use second person writing that is personal, human and inviting. "At USI you’ll find dedicated, engaged faculty who are ready to help you succeed."
When writing more general content about the University or providing information, you might use third person when writing. For example: "The University of Southern Indiana was founded in 1965 to serve the higher education needs of southern Indiana. With more than 130 areas of study, the University provides a wide range of opportunities for students from undergraduate to graduate, traditional to adult learners."
It is never a good idea to mix second and third person in the same communications. This causes confusion for the reader in terms of who the communication is coming from and how they are being addressed.