Tone and Personality
A clear, consistent writing style strengthens our reputation and image.
Great brands build strong bonds by being consistent. They are instantly recognizable and immediately stand for something. They speak a common language, despite communicating with very different people from very different places. All University of North Dakota communications should portray our determined students and open, welcoming culture.
How to Write in UND’s Voice and Tone
The following provides instructions on how to write in UND’s voice and tone for all digital, printed and visual materials. Adherence to these standards will create and maintain a clearly defined brand and identity.
UND’s Brand Personality
The brand personality is a set of characteristics that makes up who we are as UND.
We are hardworking and diligent. We persevere when faced with challenges and believe in actually doing, not just talking about doing.
We are strong-willed and passionate. We embrace our UND community and celebrate our achievements as a team.
We are genuine, welcoming and supportive of all students and cultures. We help those with a desire to learn and make a positive impact.
We are down-to-earth and realistic in how we go about our business. We are reliable and determined to make an impact on our community, state and the world.
We are challengers, unafraid to question how things are done. When we see a problem, we fix it with smart thinking and decisive action.
We were founded on a bold vision and a resiliency that defied all odds, characteristics that remain in all of us to this day. We are independent and tough, able to overcome any obstacle.
Tone of Voice
The UND tone of voice guides how we sound and speak to consistently convey our personality. It’s the language we use, the sound of our words and how we construct our communications.
We are always intentional and direct. We use clear and concise language backed by concrete examples, credible endorsements and statistics to prove our impact. We never mince words or use “fluffy” language to communicate an unrealistic or overly rosy picture.
We are always engaging and supportive. Our sense of humor and support for one another shines through even in the most difficult of times. We never pander or speak down to anyone.
We are always open and honest. We say what we do and we do what we say. We use personal stories and students, faculty and staff to communicate the UND experience. We never mislead or pretend to be something we are not.
We are fun and motivated by the opportunity to make a difference. We embrace the success of each other and are proud to share our accomplishments with the world. We exude optimism and empower our students by emphasizing the opportunities we provide. We are never dull, distant or boastful.
UND’s Brand Voice
Use the following guidelines to ensure UND’s brand voice is consistent.
The UND brand voice is always:
- Direct, using an active tone and unpretentious language.
- Positive to communicate our impact and convey opportunity.
- Straightforward, using proof points and statistics to substantiate our commitment to hard work, positive impacts and the future.
- Packed with action verbs and powerful language to reflect our determined culture.
- Concise, featuring digestible content, particularly for online and social media posts.
The UND brand voice is never:
- Complicated, confusing or featuring overly technical language.
- Forced, feigned or overly excited.
- Trying to be something it’s not. We avoid qualifiers and passive phrases like “we will” or “we're going to.”
- Packed with cliches or flowery language.
- Clouded with sales speak, long-winded passages of text or verbose content.
Dos and Don’ts
Use the following guidelines to ensure that content fits UND’s personality and tone of voice.
- Be concise. Details can add color, but always be mindful of length. Long blocks of text are difficult to read, particularly online.
- Be conversational. Craft your content like you’re telling the story of UND and its great students. Your writing never should read or feel like you’re issuing a press release.
- Think like your audience (students, prospective students, parents, alumni, etc.). Demonstrate that you understand and care about each group’s different wants and needs. When talking to insider audiences, communicate to them as members of the UND community by tapping into your shared knowledge of the University. For new audiences, be clear, straightforward, passionate and informative.
- Let your pride for UND come across as arrogance. When communicating a measure of success, keep it honest and direct and go easy on the superlatives.
- Use UND lingo and insider references when communicating with audiences who are not deeply connected with the community. Always spell out acronyms and explain proprietary items.
- Use long words or phrases when shorter ones will work just as well.
How to Use the Tagline Leaders in Action
When using UND’s tagline, Leaders in Action, follow the basic guidelines below.
When referring to the Leaders in Action tagline itself:
- Capitalize the “L” in leaders and the “A” in action. Keep the “i” lowercase.
- Keep the tagline in regular typeface (i.e. no bold, italics, underline or quotes around
- Example: UND’s new tagline, Leaders in Action, has been a great addition to the University.
- Do not use as an individual hashtag, instead use leaders in action in message text and use #UNDproud (lowercase “p”).
When not referring to the specific tagline:
- Avoid, if possible. Try to find other ways to get the same point across.
- Example: “John Doe is a leader in the classroom.”
- Example: “John Doe makes an impact in the classroom.”
- Both of these are on brand and have the same meaning without inserting the tagline.
- If you do use it, lowercase the entire phrase.
- Keep the words in regular typeface.
- Example: John Doe truly is a leader in action.
- Example: UND’s leaders in action are impacting the world in medicine, business and aerospace.
Tone of Voice in Action
|Audience||What We Say||What We Don't Say|
|Brand-Building/Awareness||Lead by Action||We’re Really Leading with Action at UND|
|Prospective Students||Learn Skills that Drive the World Forward||A UND Education Will Teach You the Skills to Make a Difference!|
|Parents||A Future that Works: 86% of Graduates Hold Jobs Related to Their UND Education||Your Child Will Be Employed in a Job Related to Their UND Education|
|Alumni||Pass the Torch to the Next Generation of Leaders||UND is a leader in professional education, focused on preparing minds for brilliant futures|
Helpful Writing Tips
- This institution is called the “University of North Dakota” or “UND.” These are the only acceptable references.
- Unless otherwise noted, Associated Press (AP) style is the designated writing guideline for UND.
- Writing style must be consistent. If you spell out the month when writing a date, do not abbreviate the month later in the story. If you highlight the names of alumni in bold type in an article, do all names in bold type. Instances of inconsistency always will appear as mistakes.
- Capitalize proper nouns but never references to them. Capitalize a person’s title only when it immediately precedes his or her name.
- Watch your words. To show sensitivity to a rich variety of races, religions and other aspects of identity, we must respect cultural, personal and religious differences. Don’t mention ethnic, racial or other individual characteristics unless they are pertinent to the reader.
- Do not complicate your writing. Use direct and practical language that is free of jargon. We want people to understand and embrace the great work being done at UND, so explain it in simple, everyday English.
- Keep your writing active whenever possible, including in headlines. When the subject of a sentence performs an action, the sentence is written in active voice. When the subject is being acted upon, the sentence is written in passive voice. (Passive: The hypothesis of the researchers was proved by their experiment. Active: The researchers’ experiment proved their hypothesis.)
The brand book contains guidance on how to communicate with different UND stakeholders and what they care about. To request the complete brand book document, contact identity@UND.edu.