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University Voice and Tone

When we tell our story at Illinois State, we should remember the readers of all of our content—from print to digital—are people.

Just as your own personal voice and tone give off an impression of what you're all about, so does Illinois State's. If we want to leave a good impression with our audiences, we need to use a consistent voice and appropriate tone.

Voice and tone are how we sound to our audiences. Following these guidelines helps you connect with the humans who make up your audiences.


Voice is a reflection of the Illinois State University brand and values, especially our dedication to individualized attention and our small-school feel. Our voice doesn't change, and it should be easy to recognize.

The University voice should always be approachable, conversational, and confident.

Even though there are many units within the University, we should all have the same conversational, approachable voice. No matter what platform someone is using, it should always sound like Illinois State.

Tips for Writing in Illinois State's Voice

Write how people speak.

Traditional grammar rules that apply to academia and business communications do not always apply to conversational writing. Humans use contractions, speak in fragments, end sentences with prepositions, and use pronouns like "I", "you," and "we." Keep this in mind when writing in a conversational manner.

Keep it short.

People lose focus when someone drones on and on. Same goes for writing. Get to your point quickly. And keep your paragraphs short. Anything more than two or three sentences should be broken up. Short sentences are also more conversational.

Use active voice. 

In sentences using active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. In passive voice, the subject receives the action. Passive voice can be clunky and awkward. Active voice is more conversational.

Passive Voice: The research article was written by Dr. Mayonnaise.

Active Voice: Dr. Mayonnaise wrote the research article.

Read your writing out loud.

Make sure your writing follows conversational speaking patterns. If you need to take a breath before a period, your sentence might be too long. If you're stumbling over pronunciation, you might need simpler words.


Tone changes depending on who your audience is and what you're trying to communicate.

The University's tone works just like face-to-face tone. We use a different tone of voice when we're talking to our boss than we do with our best friend. We need to have a consistent voice (conversational and approachable) but take on a different tone based on the audience and their needs.

Tips for Writing in an Appropriate Tone

No matter what you're writing, be confident, clear, and concise.

Be confident.

Being confident helps visitors see us as experts and establishes trust. Avoid hedging language that communicates a sense of uncertainty.

Be clear and concise.

Being clear and concise means don't overcomplicate or overexplain things. Know who your audience is and why they are reading your materials or visiting your platform, and provide the information they want or need. The fewer words you can use to get your point across, the more confident you will sound in your writing.

Use common language.

Avoid the use of jargon. Technical words or expressions become a hurdle for readers when we communicate to a broader audience. Writing academically or in an overly professional manner also makes you less approachable and makes it harder for people to connect with you. Treat your readers like a teammate, not a subordinate or the boss.