UW Brand

Personality and tone

The UW’s brand personality traits capture the spirit that stems from our purpose and principles. These traits represent more than our brand; they represent the people who are part of our community as well as the characteristics we constantly strive to embody.

Our personality and beliefs should shine through in everything we say (in other words, our tone of voice) and do.

Using a distinctive tone to capture the UW’s personality brings our passionate, spirited leadership to life. It also establishes one brand with one unified voice, which helps our audiences recognize and relate to us. In all communications, our tone of voice should be personable, engaging and clear. (For tips on how to achieve this, see writing on brand.)

The brand personality traits should be used to inform style and tone of voice. Please use the bolded adjectives as a guide to shape tone and messaging; they are not key words to simply be copied and pasted into text.

  • Bold: Our vision of what we can achieve is bold. We’re confident, but never arrogant or exclusive in our language. We are clear and direct in our messaging.
  • Tenacious: We’re determined to make a positive impact, no matter how daunting the task, and our messaging conveys this resolve.
  • Confident: We embrace challenges. We’re not haughty, but we believe in the power of possibilities and the strength of collaboration. Our language is positive and upbeat. It reflects our can-do attitude.
  • Boundless: We avoid clichés. We go beyond the status quo. We engage our audience in a way that resonates authentically with them. We’re real and we’re optimistic.
  • Compassionate: We connect with people. Our language reflects this people-oriented, thoughtful approach.
  • Visionary: We believe in the power of new ideas and will work tirelessly to turn them into actions. We share our visionary ideas in a relatable, approachable way using language that is positive as well as genuine.
  • Innovative: We harness our collective energy to imagine new solutions. Our fresh, vibrant language reflects our inventiveness and creativity.

Getting the “right” tone: Using language that is personable, engaging and clear

While there are multiple characteristics that form our personality — and you may want to emphasize different aspects at different times for different audiences — we always want our tone of voice to come across as personable. We’re a trusted, knowledgeable source thanks to our position as a renowned research university, but we’re approachable. We don’t use pedantic jargon, and while we’re confident, we’re never arrogant. We’re people-oriented, engaging and passionate about making a difference in the world. That passion comes through with energetic, vibrant language.

Of course, the way you apply tone will vary depending on the audience, platform and your objectives. While you will make subtle shifts to ensure the tone suits your audience and communication goals, the overall tone — or feeling conveyed through copy — should embody the UW brand.

Here are some suggestions on ways to sound personable, engaging and clear:

  • Always consider your audience first. What kind of language and content will they connect with?
  • Be personal and direct. Use first person (“we,” “our,” “us”) and second person (“you,” “your”) when appropriate to maintain a conversational feel. Lead with details about students, faculty, alumni, donors, etc., when possible.
  • Avoid the thesaurus. Stick to everyday language. Strive to address complex issues using smart but clear language that is inclusive rather than alienating to readers.
  • Be concise. Use active rather than passive language.
  • Since we want to sound like a person, not an ivory tower institution, use contractions when it suits your target audience and the medium you’re using to communicate.