“Words are fun. Words are your friends.” is what Donna Talarico states in her highly entertaining talk at HighEdWeb 2016.
Writing content for the web is all about telling a compelling story. Knowing what makes a good story, and what makes a story good is as essential as knowing the audience: who we are writing for, and why we are writing for this particular audience. Successful stories that connect with the readers should evoke emotions, be action-oriented, memorable and most importantly human to achieve relatability.
To tell the story of your campus, adopt the following guidelines:
- Find characters. Find somebody relatable and tell the story through their lens(es). Characters can for example be a student, alumni or faculty member.
- Choose a setting. This could be your campus or your building or department.
- Decide on the point of view. Find the right angle to your story. It could be told from the perspective of a student, staff or faculty member.
- Make it personable. Stop saying “the student”, say “you.” Stop saying “the campus”, say “we or “I” if appropriate.
- Show, don’t tell. Avoid clichés and empty phrases, and think of concrete examples to make the story more compelling.
- Use engaging media. Emphasize your story with photos, videos or graphics.
- Make stronger word choices. Don’t just use words you are comfortable with, and don’t overuse words like awesome, great, fun, beautiful, etc. Book tip: Better than Great by Arthur Plotnik.
- Write user-friendly. Use words that students and their parents will understand. Don’t be redundant, be playful. Alliteration works, and repetition can be effective. App tip: Hemingway App.
- Use active voice. Speak in active voice with clarity. It is often more exciting and vibrant than passive voice, and it keeps the pace going.
- Be brief. Cut the clutter and avoid unnecessary phrases. Brevity adds clarity.
- Self-edit. Read your drafts aloud to help with flow and structure, print out a hard copy, share with others if you can (they aren’t as close to the topic as you are). Check for spelling, grammar, editing-induced errors, weak words, redundancy, fluff words, flow and structure, rhythm, fact-checking.
When working in teams, formalize the collaborative writing process. Check if there is a proofing process in order, write a style guide, create a schedule for content review and do a content inventory. Rethink job descriptions and the team structure, assessing who writes, who reviews, when and why.