Get the tone right

Choose an appropriate tone for the message.

A newsletter might use contractions (you’re, let’s, we’ve), slang and funny pictures to make it friendly and chatty. That’s perfectly fine, as it tailors the way you write to the way you want the reader to feel: included, energised, excited and happy.

A letter about fees would (and should) be more formal, but that doesn’t mean discarding the principles of plain language. It just means carefully matching the tone to the situation. You can still address the reader directly as ‘you’, rather than ‘the student’ or ‘the applicant’.

It’s important to maintain a constructive and non-judgemental tone. Rather than tell someone what not to do, reframe the message to tell them what they should or can do.

Even if you are writing about a negative situation, like a student who has failed a course, it’s important to include information about positive steps that they can take or the support services that are available for them.

Tip: Check your voice: Read it out loud and if you find yourself thinking, ‘I wouldn’t say it like that’, then don’t write it like that.