Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

What is a writing style guide?

Writing style refers to the ways an author chooses to write to his or her readers. Style is not a matter of right and wrong, but of what is appropriate for a particular setting and audience. Writing style depends on your situation (what is your role?), your audience (who are they and do you know them personally?), and your purpose (why are you writing?).

Think about how we want to be perceived

  • Articulate
  • Professional
  • Competent
  • Knowledgeable
  • Friendly

Tips

  • Arrange sentences in a logical order
  • Arrange your ideas within a sentence for greatest effect
  • Keep sentences direct and to the point
  • New idea, new sentence
  • Be concise and precise
  • Choose your words carefully
  • Edit to remove unnecessary words and make corrections
  • Have your work proofread by someone else
  • Use bold or underline only when essential

Achieving the right balance

For most University communications, aim for the middle ground in tone and style. Avoid overly formal language and long sentences. Also avoid colloquial language, jargon and slang.

Use the active voice where possible. It is simpler and more direct.

  • Active voice: The student completed the form.
  • Passive voice: The form was completed by the student.

You and we can create a relationship between writer and reader; an appropriate greeting or acknowledgment of the message you’ve received and a well-constructed response can contribute to a friendly and professional tone. Word choice affects tone – some words can have positive or negative connotations, or convey a mood or attitude.

  • If you apply after the due date you may incur a late fee.
  • If you apply after the due date you may be penalised with a late fee.

Try to avoid using could and should. Instead, aim for a neutral/balanced option in most situations.

  • Please complete the declaration by 10 December.
  • Could you complete the declaration by 10 December.