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Writing Tips

Even if you don’t have experience in public relations writing or graphic design like we do, there are a few tips that professionals in our field adhere to that can help you get on the right track.

Check the Visual Identity Standards Guide
(The following fonts are used in Southern materials)

  • Goudy Old Style
  • Garamond
  • Palatino
  • Helvetica Neue
  • Gill Sans
  • Verdana


Bulleted Lists

  • Use a colon to introduce a bulleted list unless the sentence introducing the list is complete and each item in the list is a complete sentence. Don’t use a colon if it’s a bulleted list underneath headline.
  • Do not punctuate or capitalize partial sentences in lists.
  • Make all items in the list congruent (for example if the first bullet begins with a verb, make all the bullets begin with a verb).

Capitalization

  • Capitalize names of departments.
  • Lowercase job titles, unless they precede the person’s name (then capitalize).
  • For headlines, capitalize all words except prepositions and conjunctions with less than four letters (if such a word is the first or last word in the headline it should still be capitalized).

Commas

  • Conjunctions only need commas when joining two independent clauses.
  • In a simple series, commas SHOULD be used.
  • When deciding if a comma needs to go between two adjectives, flip the adjectives. If the sentence still makes sense, a comma is likely needed.
  • Renaming vs. clarifying: When you’re renaming an item, you use a comma. For example, one might say, “My husband, John,” because one only has one husband. However, when clarifying, one doesn't need the comma. For example, I would say “My coworker Jane” because one has several coworkers.

Composition Titles
Composition titles should be italicized.

Dashes
Use em-dashes (without spaces: a—b), rather than en-dashes (not: a – b).

Names

On second reference:

  • refer to professors and other university employees by their last names
  • refer to students by their first names
  • refer to all others by their first names, unless there is a specific reason to use a last name, which should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Phone Numbers
Use periods: 423.236.2000 and for the toll-free number: 1.800.SOUTHERN.

Southern

  • Southern Adventist University on first reference
  • Southern on following references (never SAU)
  • If the first reference to the school is referring to a time before the name Southern Adventist University was in place, you may use either the full name of the school at that time or simply Southern (whichever is more appropriate in the context of the piece).

Don’t use underlining or all capitals.
Both of these lower the readability of text, which makes your message more difficult for the reader to understand. Italicizing or bolding the word is preferable.

 Wrong Right
 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility
SHAPE MATTERS shape matters

Align text in eye-pleasing ways.
Readers want to see the important points quickly, so make them easy to find. Simply placing all text in the center of the page will not make anything stand out.

Make indents match the text flow.
Typewriters called for one-half inch tabs. Today, using computers, one-third of an inch or less is plenty. Using smaller tabs is important when working with a small amount of text; large indents swallow the beginning text.

Space documents conservatively.
After a period, use only one space. When laying out a document, keep blank spaces between text and graphics to a minimum.

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