Skip to main content


Whether you're writing a press release, news article, or feature story, be objective and truthful. Use these tone tips to communicate clearly and concisely.

Informative, not overwhelming

An informative tone helps your readers digest the information you're communicating. An overwhelming tone can confuse your audience and make them abandon your story.

Tips for Writing in an Informative Tone

Consider the length of your story.

Aim for 300 to 600 words. If your story is too short, your readers may not get the full context or objective of your story. Stories that are too long can cause your readers to lose interest.

Use the inverted pyramid approach.

Put the most important information at the beginning of your story (typically the who, what, where, why, and how). This allows readers to decide how informed they want to be or in-depth they want to go on your topic.

Write short paragraphs.

Keep paragraphs to two or three sentences. Longer paragraphs are more difficult to read. Shorter paragraphs help your readers stay focused and consume information.

Professional, not stuffy

Write your story in plain language. This makes your writing more accessible to a general audience. Writing stories in an academic tone or in an overly professional manner makes it harder for your readers to connect with and understand your article.

You should also avoid words and phrases that a general audience may not understand:

  • Cliches
  • Internal labels and acronyms
  • Jargon
  • Slang
  • Technical terms

Professional headline: Illinois State alum nominated for Academy Award

Stuffy headline: Illinois State CFA alum nominated for prestigious Motion Picture and Sciences award after starring in prevalent dramatic film

Confident, not arrogant

Writing in a confident tone helps establish credibility and helps readers trust the information we're providing.

Tips for Writing in a Confident Tone

Be definite.

Avoid hedging language that communicates a sense of uncertainty.

Confident: A new hiring event on August 18 will help students find on-campus jobs.

Hedging: A new hiring event on August 18 might help students find on-campus jobs.

Avoid common hedge words:

  • Generally
  • Most likely
  • Probably
  • Typically
  • Usually

Avoid politeness.

Using words like "sorry" and "please" outside of a direct quote in a story makes you sound less confident. You can still sound friendly and conversational without common polite words.

Confident: To learn more about Smith's research project, visit her website.

Too polite: To learn more about Smith's research project, please visit her website.

Keep it short.

The fewer words you can use to get your point across, the more confident you will sound in your writing. Avoid elaborate words when there is a simpler alternative.

Confident: Our academic programs give you real, hands-on experience.

Too long: Our academic programs offer you the kinds of experiences that will help you succeed in the real world.

Confident writing does not mean you should sound arrogant. Arrogant writing often uses big words, long sentences, and passive voice. Write in the active voice and be as clear and concise as possible.

Confident: Dr. Pat Salmon conducted an experiment to determine what dogs dream about.

Arrogant: In order to determine what canines dream about, a robust, thorough experiment was conducted by Dr. Pat Salmon.

Creative, not unpolished

A catchy headline and a playful tone can catch and keep your readers' attention.

Whether or not you should use this tone depends on your topic and audience. Light-hearted topics and feature stories can sometimes be a little more playful than general news and press releases.

It's important to keep your writing polished and not overdo your creativity. The main purpose of our stories is to inform, and too many puns or too much humor can be distracting.

Creative headline: Scoop dreams: Illinois State alum opens ice cream shop in downtown Chicago

Unpolished headline: Illinois State alum opens an awesome ice cream shop in downtown Chicago! Read more to get the inside "scoop."