When communicating professionally, each employee should ensure their copy, message and meaning is broadly inclusive of all races, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, sexualities, genders, gender self-identifications, and more. Employees should avoid colloquial words and turns of phrase that might misrepresent their meaning. Employees should not repeat profane or otherwise provocative elements of popular culture in written work-related materials (i.e. email) or in any other way while representing LCC.
Employees should be conscious of audience, meaning and the context in which a message is read. This means considering even minor communications from a perspective of cultural awareness before they are published, posted or sent.
Things to be particularly aware of:
- Pronouns: correct usage and equality of representation.
- Words specifically referencing or connoting racial or ethnic identity: what do these have to do with/ how do they advance the copy in which they have been included? Are they appropriately used in every way?
- Words specifically referencing or connoting sexual preference or gender identity.
- References to anything regarding socio-economics, personal economy, wealth, poverty, etc.
- Religion: why is LCC referencing religion in this communication? Could any religious perspective, atheists, agnostics, etc. be offended by what has been written?
- Could the words, as written, be construed as offensive?
Emails should be written as though all of the content within them could be liable to inclusion in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Anything outsiders might deem offensive, actionable, criminal, discriminatory, inappropriate, etc. must be excluded from LCC email communications.
Employees must understand and consider the nature of their professional relationships when composing emails. Salutations, content, valedictions, signatures and pictures that might be appropriate for office mates might not be appropriate for superiors. Internal emails are not usually fit for an external audience.
Emails should be written in an appropriate font, Calibri and Times New Roman being examples of these. Email font color should be black against a white field. This improves readability for all parties and is especially important as LCC focuses on accessibility.
Write professional emails with appropriate salutations, valedictions, signatures and content. Acceptable salutations might include "Dear," "Hello," "Hi" or any other commonly accepted and respectful iteration of such. Valedictions might include "Thank you," "Best regards," "Sincerely," or simply "Thanks." Signatures are to be brief and may include one's name, job title, phone number and campus mailing address. Quotes (personal, inspirational)
should be avoided when possible to avoid signaling positions that might not be consistent with LCC's.
Should an employee choose to have a photograph associated with their campus email, such photos must be of the employee in question and professional in nature. Pictures taken from an employees' social media page are likely inappropriate.
Writing for web content should be short and to the point. Less is more - state your point and eliminate wordiness. While details add color, be mindful of length. Long blocks of text are difficult to read online and sound pretentious. Functional text on the site, such as navigation or page descriptions, should be brief. Use listed bullets when possible and do not use parenthetical.
All LCC communication products should portray excellence and openness, as there is a warmth and friendliness that accompanies the college's accomplishments and mission. Don't let pride come across as arrogance. When pointing out a measure of success, keep it honest and do not overuse superlatives.
- Be conversational. Write like you're telling a story, not issuing a press release.
- Use active rather than passive voice to keep prose lively and interesting.
- Think like the audience (students, parents, faculty, etc.) to whom you're speaking. Be mindful of each group's different needs and demonstrate empathy. When writing to internal audiences, treat them as members of the LCC community. Tap into your shared knowledge of the college.
Public Audiences/External Facing
When writing for our public or external facing audiences, generally avoid the pronoun "we." It is important to not represent your views as the views of the entire college, division, department or program.
Think like the audience (potential students, community members, media, etc.) to whom you're speaking. When writing to external audiences, be mindful they may not know anything about the college. Avoid using LCC jargon and internal references with external audiences.
Spell out all acronyms and explain proprietary items such as the CTE or TLC. Be clear, informative and reassuring when necessary. Be explanatory but not condescending.
Our social media platforms open our LCC community to the world. These are platforms to engage in two-way conversation, share exciting news and events, and elevate our brand.
Voice and Tone
What is the difference between voice and tone? Think of it this way: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might use one tone when you're out to dinner with your closest friends, and a different tone when you're in a meeting with your boss.
Tone and style vary from social media platform, however all messages delivered through LCC's social media platforms should speak in the same voice: who we are as a college and community.
Who We Are
LCC's mission statement language has a professional or "academic" tone. Though our mission drives our brand and voice, it should not influence our tone on social media.
Our Social Media Voice
Be human. Be authentic. Be familiar, friendly, and straightforward. Our priority is sharing our #starpower (what makes LCC great), which elevates our brand and the public's perception, and helping our students and/or followers stay in the know about our events and achievements as well as the achievements of our peers and community partners, and other news. We want to educate people without patronizing or confusing them, and share our story without "selling" to them. Engage with them.
Our voice is...
- Fun, not silly
- Confident, not cocky
- Smart, not stodgy
- Informal, not sloppy
- Helpful, not overbearing
- Expert, not bossy
Our Social Media Tone
Our social media tone is simple, authentic and fun, but it is always more important to be clear than entertaining. When you are writing, consider the reader's state of mind. Are they frantically trying to find an answer to an enrollment question? Are they confused and seeking our help? Are they curious about a post? Once you have an idea of their emotional state, you can adjust your tone accordingly.
Feel free to be funny when it is appropriate and when it comes naturally to you. But don't go out of your way to make a joke; forced humor can be worse than none at all.
Writing: Grammar and Mechanics
Adhering to certain rules of grammar and mechanics keeps our writing clear and consistent. Here are a few key elements of writing LCC's voice. For more, see the Style Guide in the following chapter.
- Use active voice. Avoid passive voice.
- Avoid slang and jargon. Write in plain English.
- Write positively. Use positive language rather than negative language.
- Write for all readers. Some people will read every word you write. Others will just skim.
- Be consistent. Stick to the copy patterns and style points outlined in this guide.
- Focus your message. Create a hierarchy of information. Lead with the main point or the most important content, in sentences, paragraphs, sections and pages.
- Be concise. Use short words and sentences. Avoid unnecessary modifiers.
- Be specific. Avoid vague language. Cut the fluff.
Writing for Social Media
We use social media to build relationships with our users and share all the cool stuff we do. However, it also creates opportunities to say the wrong thing, put off followers and damage our brand. Therefore, we are careful and deliberate in what we post to our social channels.
Write short, but smart.
To write short, simplify your ideas or reduce the amount of information you are sharing-but not by altering the spelling or punctuation of the words themselves. It is fine to use the shorter version of some words, like "info" for "information." But do not use numbers and letters in place of words, like "4" instead of "for" or "u" instead of "you."
Some social media platforms have a character limit; others do not. But for the most part, keep social media copy short.