Our tone of voice

We’re a respected place of learning, so people listen to what we say. If the way that we express ourselves is intelligent, interesting and consistent, we can foster trust and inspire our audiences to get involved with what we do.

That’s why, as well as our visual identity, our verbal identity is a crucial part of how we connect with people.

With lots of different people writing on behalf of the University, we need to demonstrate one voice so that when our audiences read our communications they feel confident that we know what we’re talking about. Everything from our annual report to a two-line email should be written in the University style.

Our tone of voice is based on our personality traits. We are a world-class quality institution, with a historic grounding and a vibrant and friendly personality that gives us the confidence to look to the future with ambition.

World-class quality

We don’t dumb down, but neither do we over-complicate. We expect our audiences to be intelligent but not necessarily expert, so where we use specialist language, we always take the trouble to explain it. We avoid using acronyms and abbreviations – if we really have to use them, we spell them out the first time they appear. 

Some rules for guidance

  • Do maintain a sense of authority and sound professional.
  • Don’t use jargon.

Historic grounding

Our reputation is built on our many achievements and the ways in which our people have changed the world. We also see the promise in our future, so we use present and future tense where we can, referencing our past successes within the context of what we’re doing today and will do tomorrow. 

Some rules for guidance

  • Do ground the energy and ambition that we work with today in the University’s solid, substantial history in order to promote the quality of our institution.
  • Don’t use archaic terms like ‘whilst’, ‘amongst’, or ‘thus’.

Vibrant and friendly personality

We know that people respond to people, so we speak directly to our audiences. We use the first person and address our reader. We understand that it’s fine to use contractions – words such as ‘won’t’, ‘you’ll’ and ‘we’ll’ – to make our copy sound friendly. 

Some rules for guidance

  • Do address the reader as ‘you’ and use ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ when referring to the University.
  • Don’t use slang or clichés


We are confident enough to get straight to the point in our communications. We cut out any excess and avoid artificially lofty language. We use the active voice, rather than the passive. And if we want to emphasise a particular point, we use a short sentence. 

Some rules for guidance

  • Do bring the benefits that we can offer to our audiences and our real life success stories to the fore of communications.
  • Don’t overuse words that are very popular in higher education – ‘excellence’, ‘state-of-the-art’, ‘world leading’ – and never make a claim that you cannot substantiate with evidence.


Our language and style guide includes advice on how to write certain words and phrases, how to show numbers and dates, when to use capital letters and other useful information. You don’t have to remember it all: just refer to the guide whenever you need an answer.

Writing for the web

We also offer a toolkit of resources and guidelines on writing for the web. In it, you can find details about why people read differently online to the way they do in print, and how to structure your copy to make it user-friendly.