Tone of voice

Tone of voice

Social media is a personal space. Conversations happen on mobile phones while people wait for buses, sit in cafes, or while they’re watching TV. So, when you interact with people online, it pays to be personal, friendly, positive and enthusiastic.

It also helps if you can adjust your tone to match the audience. For instance, you might use emojis when you’re replying to a positive tweet from a student – but if you’re replying to a business partner on a LinkedIn discussion group, emojis might not be appropriate.

In general, talk about the organisation in the first person plural (‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’) and not in the third-person singular (‘the university’). We want to be friendly and approachable, and formal language doesn’t translate well to social media.

Speak directly to people, think of your audience as one individual, and personalise your responses. If you’re addressing all of your followers, say ‘you’ instead of ‘all of you’. Stay away from phrases like ‘All students must be aware’.

If someone asks for a response, definitely don’t ‘mention’ them in a quoted tweet directed at all of your followers. It looks weird (imagine someone doing that in person – it would come off as quite a strange way of interacting).

These three tips are from the University’s copy style guide. They work pretty well here too.

  • Clear, concise, intelligent and adult (but never pompous or stuffy).
  • We use evidence to back up our messages.
  • Copy is engaging but not overly familiar.

Here are some tips:

  • Avoid unnecessary superlatives (not everything needs to be ‘amazing’). You’re better off sticking to facts.
  • Don’t use slang, jargon or clichés. And try to avoid acronyms. Use plain language.
  • Don’t overuse phrases like ‘cutting edge’ or ‘world-class’. Stick to facts.

Further reading: Sheffield Hallam University’s Copy Style Guide, It’s just banter: social media tone of voice convergence in football [Chris Nee]

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