Basic Writing Guidelines

When it comes to writing, you have resources! We'll get the word out for student life opportunities in the weekly Keeping Bobcats Informed e-newsletter and on our social media channels. The central marketing team offers guidance in communication planning, crisis communication, email and social media. However, if you're doing some writing for yourself then you've come to the right place!

How to write articles busy people will read

Stay on trend (jk)

We follow a specific style of writing — do you get the joke now? It's called Associated Press (AP for short).

You can reference the AP style guide online by using your OHIO ID.

Click here to access OHIO's online library.

Tell a story

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.

A few ways to explore the narrative:
  • Tell the story of a student who participated in the program and how it impacted that individual.
  • Consider the perspective of your primary audience and the goals they might have — then write a listicle emphasizing how the program can help someone achieve those goals. 
  • Try out a first-person approach, tell the audience how you've been impacted by the program or product. 

Define the audience

Develop, target and cater to your audience up front rather than sending the same content to everyone. 

Let's say you're advertising a new fitness program. Imagine a specific student that you are writing to — maybe she is a transfer student who loves to exercise, but also wants to build a community of friends with similar priorities — write to her by keeping those specific desires in mind.

Make it relatable

It’s great to include direct quotes in an article, especially from someone your audience might want to hear from. A student audience would probably like to hear the perspective on a program from another student rather than the person running the program. 

Give key info

Include the who, what, where, when and why early on in your content. People need this basic information in order to take action!

Remember "SOS"

When writing anything — articles, emails, social posts — use the acronym "SOS" to evaluate its effectiveness. 

S: Short
  • Essentials only: Don't use five words when four will do.
  • Avoid jargon: It's easy to use language that is specific to your industry, but you're rarely writing for industry professionals. Write for the person who knows nothing about your work.
  • Consider readability: We recommend writing for a ninth-grade reading level. 
  • Follow recommended word counts:
    • Accolades – 200 words
    • Briefs for newsletters – 50 words or less
    • Feature stories – 800-1000 words
    • Email – 200 words
O: Organized
  • Start strong: Write a concise headline that will grab attention. Stay away from trying to summarize the whole story.
  • Know your ideal outcome: Identify the action you want a reader to take.
  • Give your input: State how your program, service, etc. solves the reader's problem or helps them achieve a goal.
  • Give context: Make sure they have all the key info (remember: Who? What? When? Where? Why?), and leave out extraneous information. 
  • End with a clear directive: In marketing, we refer to it as the "call-to-action". It's the specific action we want the audience to take after reading the article or email.
S: Skimmable

The truth is most readers these days have many demands for their attention and they're low on time. This means they're going to skim what you wrote. Make it easy for them. 

  1. Use headers.
  2. Apply bulleted and numbered lists whenever possible.
  3. Make sure the call-to-action is clear and cannot be missed. 

Think of it this way, if all the reader does is read your headline and call-to-action, will they get the gist?

How to write emails (and newsletters) the audience will want to open

  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.