Content principles and guidelines

When we write digital and print content intended for our external audiences, it's important we're consistent, user-centered, and on brand.

This page is includes our content principles, voice and tone guidelines, and a list of words to avoid. See also our content style guide.   

Our content principles

Write for all readers. 

Think about your audience. What do they want to know? What do you want them to know?

Some people will read every word you write. Others will just skim. Group related ideas together and use descriptive headers and subheaders to help everyone understand what you want them to know. 

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 adverbs and modifiers. Cut the fluff.

Be specific.

Avoid vague language that's ambiguous or open to interpretation.

Be consistent. 

Stick to style points outlined in our style guide and the university’s guide. If you are writing for the Health Sciences Library, also see Health Sciences style guide.

Use conversational language. 

When it makes sense, use us or we to refer to the library or library staff and you or your to refer to your audience. It's fine to use contractions.

Use active voice. 

In active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. Avoid passive voice, where the subject of the sentence has the action done to it. Words like “was” and “by” may indicate that you’re writing in passive voice. Scan for these words and rework sentences where they appear.

Our voice

Our voice is conversational, friendly, and easy to understand. Use direct, real people language, reflecting the library's personality, which is:

  • Knowledgeable, but not preachy
  • Fun, but not silly
  • Inspirational, but not cheerleady
  • Expert, but not bossy
  • Approachable, but not casual
  • Simple, but not simplistic

Our tone

While our voice stays consistent, our tone can adjust depending on context and audience. In some cases, we'll want an informal tone, and in others we might need to be academic.

Use a tone that meets the expectations of your the audience. Consider readers' emotional states and the context of the communication. For example, your tone should be more formal when  communicating with someone about their job application than when replying to someone on social media. Social media posts can include exclamation points and emoticons/emoji, but they’re not recommended for other digital and print content.

Type of writing Intended audience Tone Example
News story/ press release Public, external stakeholders, staff, media, students Direct, impartial This university initiative will transform the Main Library, the Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library, Bear Down Gym, and a new four-story building into an interconnected facility that will support collaborative, hands-on learning for generations of students.  
Twitter students Enthusiastic, positive, casual

Renovations are happening, are you as excited as we are?! 

Email notification PhD students Direct, brief, personalized, supportive, understanding You will still be able to access your dissertation writing room, and our staff at the Ask Us in the lobby is ready to help if you need assistance or free earplugs. Visit and bookmark our library renovations page for the latest information as the renovations move forward. If you have any questions, please let me know.
Web page Building visitors Helpful, informative, timely

To find library spaces less impacted by construction, talk to our staff at the Ask Us desks. Try the 4th floor in the Main Library or the 5th floor in the Weaver Library or reserve a quiet study room.

Words to avoid

  • customer (use you, visitor, student, researcher, etc.)
  • at this point in time (use now)
  • due to the fact that (use because)
  • in spite of the fact that (use though)
  • facilitate (use help)
  • in order to (use to)
  • in the event of (use if)
  • leverage
  • please note; it is interesting to note that; I will note that (emphasize important information visually instead)
  • utilize (use use)
  • very, actually, really, and similar adverbs

Applying these guidelines

Before After

This homepage of the library website provides access to the tools you’ll need to find print, electronic, and multimedia resources in our library collections and on the web.

Find print, electronic, and multimedia resources.

The University Library Special Collections maintains collections of rare books and unique archival materials that make possible in depth research on selected topics. The scope and diversity of Special Collections make it an important resource for the international academic community. Established in 1958 to house materials on the region, Special Collections now includes rare books, manuscript collections, photographs, and other materials in a wide variety of subject areas.

We offer access to rare and unique materials for scholars, researchers, and the public.

Accounts can be renewed. You can renew your account.
Workshop leaders are invited to sign up. Sign up to be a workshop leader.
Affiliates who have difficulty in locating books within the stacks may request assistance from an associate.

If you have trouble finding a book, ask us for help.

The service desk is the location where your materials can be returned. Return your materials to service desk.
If you run into problems with your laptop, computer, camera, or adaptor, the University of Arizona Libraries is the place to go to find the answers Monday through Sunday.  We've got the technology you need to get your work done.

Looking for our style guide?

Take a look at our content style guide and the University of Arizona style guide where you’ll find direction on words, names, content structure, and punctuation. 

With thanks to the University of Dundee for inspiration.