Basic tips to ensure your copy shines

Our font: We use black Arial 10pt in our designed publications and on our website. This is part of the look and feel of our brand identity and this should also be adhered to in all external facing products, including emails.

Consider your audience: We need to think about who we are writing for, what they know, and what we need to tell them – before we start writing. Tailor your copy to the needs of the audience, don’t automatically assume they share your level of expertise – or even the same interests.

Consider the context: Think about what you’re writing and pitch your copy using the appropriate tone. We know that authoring a report for a client, for example, is going to require a different writing style to, say, a social media post. Use your judgment to decide what’s appropriate, but you should always aim to write within our overall tone of voice (see above).

Use plain English: We want our communications to feel inclusive yet professional, rather than elitist or overly corporate. We should try and use plain English and language that is accessible to as wide an audience as possible in our written content, wherever possible. A good rule of thumb when considering ‘What is plain English’ – would you use the same language or wording when explaining this to a friend? If the answer is ‘no’, it may be worth considering whether to alter your language, or explain things further, if there’s a chance the intended audience may struggle to understand your meaning. Again, this takes some common sense in its application. The audience for a White Paper isn’t going to be the same as the audience for a LinkedIn post, for example.

Keep copy interesting: We’re always trying to grab our readers’ attention, so start by telling them what’s interesting. This is particularly important in introductory paragraphs, as this is our chance to reel the reader in. We need to ensure that what we’re saying is impactful. Playing with sentence structure can often render a dull sentence start more interesting. Consider reversing the order of the following: “According to XYZ organisation, we have found this really interesting finding.” Caveats, explanations and background information should generally come after the interesting point that’s being made in a sentence, not before. The same could be said for starting a sentence with ‘For example’. Better to start with the example, and then caveat if needed (it may be obvious from context that you’re using an example, so consider whether you even need to signpost the fact at all).

Avoid Repetition: Try and mix things up. Use a variety of sentence lengths and structures, vary your vocabulary and linguistic habits. We want to keep the reader engaged. Following the same formula throughout a piece of written content is a sure-fire way to put them off (see below for more detailed guidance).

Think about flow: Consider how easy it will be for the audience to follow your train of thought. Think about breaking up long chunks of text with sub-headings or rhetorical questions, particularly if you’re writing about several different topics or themes within the same document. Using introductory and concluding paragraphs can help provide initial context to your argument and neatly round off a piece.

Show don’t tell: Use evidence and examples where you can. If you want to reassure readers that a technology is increasing in its adoption, don’t just assert this – demonstrate it by referencing research or our own insights.

Always proofread: It’s difficult to spot your own mistakes, but it can be helpful to take a break and then go through work a final time before handing it to someone else to double check.

Avoid unnecessary punctuation: Be sparing with exclamation marks, and never use ALL CAPS to add emphasis.

Be concise: Omit needless words. Keep sentences short. Try to limit sentences to ten to 15 words for information on screen and 30 to 35 words for printed material.

Be focused: Stick to one point per sentence and one topic per paragraph. It’s normally better to break text up into digestible chunks, rather than providing one large meal.

UK vs American spelling: Use UK English by default unless the product you are creating is specifically designed for the US market only.