Copy Tone and Voice

“Intelligently Informal.”

Too abrasive, too soft, we lose our audience. Uninteresting, out of character, we lose our audience. Inconsistent, confusing, guess what happens. Yes, it’s important to make sure we understand the voice for our brand.

The brand voice that was developed for the UO is smart, confident, informed, and approachable. Like our students, our faculty, our community. It's “intelligently informal.” A quick test to see if you’re on the right track tonally is to ask yourself, “Does it sound intelligently informal?” And does it compel you to want read on?

Headline Tone

Headlines must be interesting enough to get someone’s attention—and often a commitment to reading more. If a headline doesn’t do that, nothing that comes after it matters. Not the compelling story, the interesting statistics, the ground-breaking news, nothing.

Frequently, what bogs down a good headline is trying to fit too much into it. The best headlines are usually short, sweet, and convey a single key idea. And while they can contain multiple ingredients—irony, humor, drama, truth—most of the time, they have only one clever twist that draws readers in and leaves them wanting to know more.

But what about UO headlines? Let’s look at a few.

For a “sense of place” or location
There’s something about this place. Everything.

For UO research
We search. We re-search. We research.

For Oregon Law
Notable clients include: land, air, water, food.

See how they seem to come from the same place? The same voice? They get in your head. Make you want to read on. This is what good headlines do. Do this.

Body Copy Tone

This is where we can really let our “intelligently informal” brand voice sing. Where we can adjust tone and style to speak to very specific audiences and take deep dives into relevant content and tell stories. However, this is where we're likely to lose someone, too, unless we’re vigilant about bringing our tone words to life. Irreverent, progressive, extraordinary, alive, natural, and inclusive. And not just one at a time—use many or all of them at once.

How you use these tone characteristics will likely vary greatly from piece to piece. Think of them each as a level on an equalizer. You can increase or decrease values depending on the context or audience. For example, if you’re writing a viewbook piece about the benefit of exploring options, you might try turning up the volume on amusing (irreverent), active (alive) and welcoming (inclusive). Here's an example:

Expand the horizons of your horizons.

Do something unexpected. Go off path. Blend business, journalism, and Japanese. Mix chemistry, athletics, and dance. Combine politics with Mickey Mouse and psychology with Second Life. This is your chance to experiment. We’re an AAU research university. Discovery is in our blood. Cross-pollination moves us forward. This is where academic evolution happens daily.

Just ask Professor Ben Saunders. He specializes in the literature of the English Renaissance. But unable to deny his love for British and American comics, he’s found a way to incorporate them right into the curriculum. Unusual? Absolutely. Unconventional? You bet. Oregon? Without question.

And then there’s undergrad Jordyn Roach. She’s double-majoring in cinema studies
and physics. Interested in the science behind optics and the art of film, she didn’t
settle for one or the other – she chose both. And it’s working for her. She’s already
winning awards and scholarships for her short films. That’s what happens when
you go big and mix things up.
Make no mistake, this place will change you.
But if you want to change us as well, we’re open to suggestions.