Ohio University

Basic Writing Guidelines

Overall best practices for content

  1. We use AP style for all forms of writing in the division. You can reference the AP style guide online by using your OHIO ID. Click here to access OHIO's online library.
  2. When developing your article idea, keep in mind that it’s about storytelling, not about selling. Find a way to explore a narrative that might also highlight your programming or product at the same time. (e.g., tell the story of a student who participated in the program and how it impacted that individual)
  3. Develop, target and cater to your audience up front rather than sending the same content to everyone.
  4. It’s great to include direct quotes in an article, especially from someone your audience might want to hear from. (e.g., a student audience would probably like to hear the perspective of a program from another student rather than the person running the program)
  5. Include the who, what, where, when and why early on in your content.
  6. Follow these guidelines for word count:
    • Accolades – 200 words
    • Briefs for newsletters – 50 words or less
    • Feature stories – 800-1000 words
    • Email – 200 words
  7. Write a concise headline that will grab attention. Stay away from trying to summarize the whole story.
  8. Avoid dense, lengthy copy when writing content for your web pages.
  9. Use language your audience would use. Your word choice should reflect the reading level of your audience, not of the author. Be careful to use language for the layperson, especially when writing about your area of expertise.
  10. Avoid use of first or second person. (e.g., I, you, we, etc.)

Email and newsletter best practices

  1. Balance your newsletter content to be about 90% educational and 10% promotional.
  2. Pick one primary call to action — the “call to action” is the action you want your audience to take (you must choose only one).
  3. In order to ensure accessibility, use alt text for all images. Check out this article explaining the importance of image alt text.
  4. Keep copy and design minimal.
  5. Segment and target specific audiences. Click here to learn about segmenting your audience.
  6. Take it one step further and use conditional segmentation when sending follow-up emails
  7. Design for mobile and desktop — the majority of our audience currently views emails and newsletters from a mobile device.
  8. Keep your brand consistent within a campaign and across all of your department’s email marketing.
  9. Put thought into your “From” name — a younger audience is more likely to open an email from a department or group name rather than an individual’s name that they don’t recognize.
  10. Make your subject line short but relevant.