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You're the voice

Voice is the unique, distinctive language of the ECU brand. It remains consistent across channels and contexts. Our voice is:

  • helpful, not patronising
  • knowledgeable, but not a show-off
  • expert, but not bossy

The ‘voice’ of your web content has a direct bearing on your readers’ ability to understand and engage with it.

Voice versus tone

The best way to describe the difference between voice and tone is to think of it this way: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might use one tone when you're out to dinner with your closest friends, and a different tone when you're in a meeting with your boss. (Source: MailChimp)

Tone changes, depending on the context. For example, a how-to-guide is factual and logical, whereas an invitation to an event strikes a more upbeat and enticing tone.

Here are three ways to achieve this.

1. Make second person your first choice

To make your content more conversational – and therefore easier to read – you should write in what’s called the ‘second person’.

Second person is the way a lot of marketing material is written. It makes the communication more personal by using words like ‘you’, ‘your’ or ‘yours’. Avoid the impersonal ‘staff’ or ‘students’ (‘third person’).

You should also use ‘us’, ‘we’ and ‘our’ (‘first person’) instead of ‘the university’ or ‘the department’ wherever you can, as this conveys a more inclusive and helpful tone.

Write like this: ‘You’ll find what you’re looking for in the Co-Op shop.’

Not like this: ‘Staff will find what they’re looking for in the Co-Op shop.’

2. Use the active voice

Using an active voice – not a passive one – is another way to help people grab information quickly and easily.

In the active voice you describe ‘who does what to whom’. For example:

  • ‘You must download and complete the order form’ is in the active voice.
  • ‘The order form must be downloaded and completed by you’ is in the passive voice.
  • ‘The order form must be downloaded and completed by staff members’ is in the passive voice and is impersonal.

3. Use contractions

Another way to make your content more conversational is by having contractions.

Contractions are when you turn two words into one, e.g. ‘You are’ becomes ‘You’re’, ‘Do not’ becomes ‘Don’t’. This is how most of us speak to each other (whether we realise it or not).

Write like this: If you’ve already tried writing web pages you’ll know it’s not easy.

Not like this: If you have already tried writing web pages you will know it is not easy.

The second sentence requires greater concentration and takes longer to read.

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