Toolkit

Writing

AUTHENTIC.

SMART.

ASPIRATIONAL.

Writing Toolkit

Words are a promise.

What are we promising?

Our words shape the perception of our personality and message to the world. Our voice is an intention that comes through in every communication we make. The language we choose is a commitment to excellence — a commitment we make every time we tell a UBC story.

UBC writing should hold the promise of discovery, the limitless potential of our people and openly welcome perspectives from all over the world.

Here are some examples that bring this to life.


Key Considerations

Key Considerations for Writing

1
Be generous: Write for the reader

Imagine you are having a conversation. Does it feel like you are referring to yourself constantly? Turn the tables. Make it about the other person. Shorten the distance between you and the reader through inclusive language.

Before
The following information is meant to support students during their time at UBC. Tuition, scholarships, housing and more are included in the descriptions below for students.
After
Your decision to come to UBC is important to us. We’d like to help you be successful so please explore the resources below to find your path and place at UBC.


2
Speak directly: Keep it precise

Be confident but avoid being boastful in your choice of language. Write to inform — make your point early in your communication piece. Banish jargon. Write intelligently but keep your tone warm. Our language should be professional but not stilted.

Before
UBC is an inspiring place, where open thought and open speech lead to new approaches and new initiatives that can open doors to breakthrough thinking and discoveries.
After
At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.


3
Breath test: Read out loud

Any sentence you read should survive the breath test. If you find you are running out of breath, your sentence is too long. Writing is like music. Listen for how your words flow when you say them out loud.

Before
Informed by the UBC Communications and Marketing Strategy and Place and Promise: The UBC Plan, the UBC Brand standards provide direction for marketing and communications staff, designers, and consultants who are responsible for translating the university’s key messages across a diverse spectrum of print and digital channels that target the university’s local, national, and international audiences.
After
As UBC’s influence and global community grows, so does our obligation to maintain excellent brand standards. These standards underpin all of our communications and enable our story to influence, inspire and engage our many audiences around the world.


4
Tell a story: Write to share

In today’s digital landscape you need to anticipate how your audience will be consuming your words. This will help you write more strategically for any given platform. Headlines in social media determine whether your content gets shared or not. Make them count.

Before
At UBC’s Okanagan campus, Bachelor of Science students can now minor in data science. http://ow.ly/VG2Hp
After
‘The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century’ #UBC Okanagan students get serious about data science in new degree option. http://ow.ly/VruCH


5
Inspire: Be genuinely caring

At UBC, we care deeply about discoveries, teaching and connecting with our community. We want this to come through in our writing in a genuine way. Inspiring copy comes from focusing on how you care and why others should too. For this reason, our writing should have real people at the heart of all our stories.

Before
Dr. Neil Cashman, a UBC Canada Research Chair in Neurodegeneration and Protein Misfolding, and Canadian leader in neurodegenerative diseases is currently searching to understand the riddle of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and how to solve it at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health (DMCBH) at UBC.
After
When Dr. Neil Cashman was a resident neurologist back in the mid 1980s, he served in the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) clinic at the University of Chicago. It changed his career path. “I had one year where I had three patients under my care, three teenage women, who died of ALS — and that just drove me up a wall. After that, I wanted more than anything, to do something that could help people with ALS.”


Think Strategically

Think Strategically

Make the most out of your project. Here are some strategies that we think will help you.

Before
  1. Before you begin any writing project, consider how your audience will experience your writing. Who is consuming your story and why? Is it a recruitment ad or a story for your website? Each requires a different approach because each is trying to reach a particular type of audience. Consider the takeaway for your reader before you begin and write to serve your reader’s needs.
  2. Carefully analyze the context. Where will your words appear? For example, content for social media will necessarily be more compressed than a feature story. Every word counts in a tweet — it is not an opportunity to be any less stringent in grammar, spelling and clarity of message.
  3. Will your words be appearing with photos, graphic design or video? Whenever possible, work with those producing these content types and collaborate on a creative brief beforehand so your writing can be as effective as possible. We are a modern university who practice integrated communications that feature rich narratives where language, design, and media work seamlessly to tell our brand story.
During
  1. Ensure you fact check if you are writing a research article, announcement or press release about anyone in the UBC community. Faculty, full name and title should be correct as well as any requisite background information (degrees, previous universities, etcetera). Our researchers have dedicated an incredible amount of time to their subject areas; showcasing who they are and what they do is a high priority in our writing and getting the details right is critical.
  2. When you have a close-to-final draft prepared, have someone proof your writing. Ideally, a copy editor is useful at this stage but if you do not have access to a copy editor, share with two people in your office. Even the most proficient writers make mistakes — always take the time to correct your errors before publishing.
  3. If you are writing about a particular person, send them a final draft to correct facts only. After all, it is your story and you have worked hard to tell it from a particular communications point of view. Your subject may not have the editorial expertise to provide feedback that will improve your piece but be open and respectful of their suggestions to improve the piece.
After
  1. If you have published a story, consider submitting it to StoryBox. Communications and Marketing can then publish and share it on ubc.ca and across the University’s central social channels.
  2. Review what worked and did not work as you look back on the project. Are there improvements you could make to streamline the process for the future?
  3. If you do not currently have an online archive of your stories set up, consider doing so. This helps you get found in online search and provides a central place for prospective students, faculty and staff and the broader public to find out more about your unit, department or faculty.

Downloads

Downloads

Brand Editorial Guide

Need guidelines for writing on-brand at UBC? Get clear on titles and grammar, clean up clunky structure and read valuable writing advice for communicators.

Indigenous Communications Guide

UBC communications are inclusive, respectful and sensitive to a richly diverse community. This guide will help you to understand the correct terminology to use when writing about Indigenous peoples.

UBC Now/Storybox Content Submission Form

Do you have a story you’d like to share on the ubc.ca homepage? Our UBC NOW is a weekly publication of stories from our community. Review our guidelines on StoryBox and use our submission form.

“About UBC” Brand Copy

Need a short description of UBC for a report, presentation, or website? Download our official boilerplate message.


Training

Training

Opportunities to gain new insights and communication skills, whether you are a new or seasoned communicator, are always available to you at UBC.

Upcoming Workshops

Freelance Writing: Interviewing

UBC Continuing Studies
May 2–June 23, 2017
Online | $530.00
The best interviews appear effortless and reveal their subject in a new, and sometimes surprising, light. Whether you are doing live interviews on-camera or writing up your interviews for publication, this course offers support for you. Discover new and creative ways of formulating questions, how to have a conversation with your subject, and the research that needs to be done ahead of time. Explore techniques for putting your subject at ease and getting them to open up with you. Learn to write up your interview in a way that is engaging for readers and is still accurate.
Register for the class

Training Videos

Writing — A Conversation with Margaret Doyle