Good Writing: Practical Tips

Pencils on yellow background

Whether your position description contains the word “writing” or not, if you write in the course of a day’s work, you are a writer. What follows is a collection of tips, practical and easy, to help you make anything you write in the course of a day’s work both highly readable and consistent with UC Davis brand and style guidelines.


Getting Started

  • First, ask yourself, does what you’re writing have a purpose? What is the point you want to make?
  • Write as if you’re speaking to one specific person within your audience, not to your audience in general.
  • Don’t assume the reader knows anything. Make sure you cover the who, what, when, where, why and how.
  • Factor reusability into your planning. Save time and effort by creating content you can adapt and use across channels and, if possible, academic years.

Readability

  • Write for scanners.
  • Put your most important information first.
  • Use concise sentences—25 words or fewer.
  • Use short paragraphs—four sentences maximum.
  • Use bulleted and numbered lists to help scanners.
  • Use subheads to break up text.
  • Avoid underlining for emphasis. Bolding—sparingly—is better.
  • Use hyperlinks but be wary of overuse. Avoid phrases like “Read more” and “Click here.”
  • Write in the active voice, e.g., “The students took the exam.” (active) not “The exam was taken by the students.” (passive)

Plain Language

  • Use pronouns like “we” and “our” and “you.”
  • Avoid overusing acronyms. Find alternatives after first or second mention, like “the center” or “our team.”
  • Use simpler words, e.g., “use” instead of “utilize.”
  • Omit excess words.
  • Enable Readability Statistics in Microsoft Word. Aim to write at between a sixth and ninth grade reading level to maximize your content’s accessibility and impact.

Brand Considerations