Tone of voice guidance for internal communications
How to use this guidance
This guidance is aimed at helping anyone producing internal communications at Imperial, whether in the CPA division or in teams across the College.
For any piece of communication, you will need to work out who you are speaking to (audience), what you are saying (messages), and how you are saying it (tone). This guidance covers this third point.
The key principles below should guide all the internal communications materials we produce – whether it’s a newsletter, a flyer or a Powerpoint presentation.
Of course, we expect different channels to have different styles and levels of formality – an all staff email from the President will feel different from a promotional brochure. But the principles below should always come through.
Inclusive and approachable
- Use ‘we’, ‘our’, ‘us’ rather than ‘the College’.
- Speak directly to your audience – say ‘you’ instead of ‘staff’.
- Use quotes and case studies to bring in voices from the Imperial community.
Dynamic and engaging
- Show rather than tell by using examples or facts and figures.
- Use active language rather than passive – ‘we have set up a new centre’ rather than ‘a new centre has been set up’.
Clear and direct
- Convey important information quickly and clearly – don’t be afraid to give direct instructions if that is the most helpful thing.
- Don’t be afraid to expand a sentence if it needs explaining, or cut a paragraph if it’s not adding anything new.
- Try reading your messages out loud – is it easy to do, or are you stumbling over commas? Does it sound clear, as if you’re speaking to someone? If not, you may need to simplify the sentences.
- Always use the full name of a centre, department, or committee in the first usage. For later usages, avoid acronyms where possible – try using abridged names instead e.g. ‘the committee’ for ‘the Imperial College Research Ethics Committee’.
- Use plain English and avoid jargon and complex technical information wherever possible. Ask yourself if everyone reading your communication will understand it. If necessary, include an explanation or a link to more information.
Warm and supportive
- Don’t be afraid to express emotion – whether it’s excitement, concern, or regret.
- Be upfront about any mistakes and include a proper apology where appropriate.
- Would your communication sound better if it came directly form an individual? If so, see if they are happy to put it in their name.
- Try to keep your language as personable as you can – imagine you are talking to someone on a tea break.
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Please get in touch with Elizabeth Nixon, Internal Communications Manager, or Martha Salhotra, Internal Communications Officer, if you would like any advice on using these guidelines in your communications.