The College serves diverse audiences, from prospective students to established researchers, and has adopted a series of different writing styles to match. Our writing standards are designed to show professionalism and consistency, leading to more popular and respected content.
What does writing "style" mean?
When it comes to guidelines for writing, style refers to how words are used throughout a work. Grammar, punctuation, and phrasing are important not only for the type of audience a piece is written for, but how professional and appropriate the final piece is.
For example, these sentences are very informative for scientists and researchers, but may be difficult for the general public:
“Two continuous 13-year simulations were conducted using (1) ERA-Interim reanalysis and (2) ERA-Interim reanalysis plus a climate perturbation for the RCP8.5 scenario. The simulations adequately reproduce the observed precipitation diurnal cycle, indicating that they capture organized and propagating convection that most climate models cannot adequately represent.” (Rasmussen, K.L., Prein, A.F., Rasmussen, R.M. et al. Clim Dyn (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-017-4000-7, licensed under CC BY 2.0)
For the public, reinterpretation of science-heavy phrasing can help make the ideas more understandable to a larger audience. At the same time, simplifying the text would not work for researchers:
“Typical climate models only resolve to about 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) – not nearly the detail available in the new dataset. Included in the new data are finer-scale cloud processes than have been available in previous climate models. Using the dataset and collaborating with NCAR researchers, Rasmussen led analysis of detailed climate simulations. The first control simulation included weather patterns from 2000-2013. The second simulation overlaid that same weather data with a “pseudo global warming” technique using an accepted scenario that assumes a 2- to 3-degree increase in average temperature, and a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.” (Manning, Anne; Dec. 15, 2017; “Warmer, wetter climate could mean stronger, more intense storms”, source.colostate.edu)
Our Default Writing Style
Writing styles change based on the audience, but it is expected that all communications will generally follow the same style that Colorado State University uses for public communication. The CSU style allows us to set default styles for things like grammar conventions, punctuation, time designations, University branding and other capitalization, abbreviations, and so on.
No matter what tone and voice we use for our communications, we want our writing to support our efforts in the best ways possible. By having a default writing style, we are able to promote a professional environment consistent with our vision and mission.
Creative Services has created an excellent reference guide at creativeservices.colostate.edu/style-guide.
“Adhering to a style promotes credibility, consistency, professionalism and clarity.”
Department of Public Relations
Colorado State University
Writing for search engine optimization (SEO)
We always want to improve our ranking in Google and across the web, to help us promote our vision and mission. The ways in which we write our content become crucial to improving our rankings, as Google works more and more towards page readability as the most important aspect of communications.
The College websites play an important role with different audiences, a balancing act of gaining both scientific and research traffic while promoting the benefits of the College. But whether that traffic is from a Google search or through Google Scholar, the algorithms behind those searches are still looking for the right content. A well written page, whether for the public or a more technical crowd, can help us to rank our pages higher.
That said, it is important to write for the audience first, and secondarily for a search engine. We want visitors to our pages to find the information they need in a professional and consistent manner, something that Google is already taking into account. Adding the correct phrases or keywords, while important, comes second.
- Start your paragraph with the most important sentence, and stay relevant. The last sentence should wrap up the paragraph, and lead to the next.
- Sentences containing more than 20 words are lengthy, try to limit them.
- Giant blocks of text are unreadable for most users, so limit the length and number of sentences in each paragraph.
- Limit words that are difficult to read. Reading from a screen is hard for everyone.
- Don’t slow the reader down with too much jargon. Jargon comes pretty easily in an education and engineering organization.
As an organization dedicated to research and higher education, it is important that any content that we produce is accurate and truthful. No matter how large or small an inaccuracy might be, it is important for the credibility of the College and the University to always promote fair, honest, and truthful information.
If an inaccuracy is found, it is important to correct it as soon as possible. If a correction cannot be made, or if the facts are unclear, the content should be fully removed until factual information can be reposted.
Tickets for content errors can be submitted through the Help Desk on the Web Operations page.
Proper Title: Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering
Consistently and correctly use the college’s name, Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, to ensure professionalism, credibility, and integrity.
With content that may mention the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering several times, it is acceptable to use the capitalized word “College” after the first instance of the full name. It is only used to specifically replace the full title, not in a general discussion of a college.
The College adheres to University policy in using capitalized versions of both “College” and “University” in specific situations. Read those brand standards in the University Writers Style Guide here.
Some examples of incorrect name usage:
- College of Engineering
- Scott College of Engineering
- Walter Scott, Jr, College of Engineering
- Walter Scott, Jr., College of Engineering
Often with internal communications the college name is written as the acronym “WSCOE” for brevity. This is generally acceptable for internal staff communications, but should not be used on anything else, especially public communications.
Writing style Guidelines
The style examples listed below are based partially on CSU style and partially on best practices for web design and search engine optimization. It is not a fully inclusive list, and if you have questions please contact us.