Writing Guidelines

To achieve a clear and consistent university brand message, use the following style guidelines when writing for non-academic print or electronic text, or marketing materials including but not limited to brochures, flyers, publications, posters, and advertisements. Readability is extremely important for our key audiences understand our messages. UH West Oʻahu follows the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level readability test, which uses polysyllabic words (more than three syllables) and long sentences to give an indication of how difficult the content is to read. UH West Oʻahu’s standard within the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level test is to aim for a seventh or eighth grade reading level. UH West O’ahu uses Siteimprove to measure its readability online, but should follow these writing standards across all mediums.

Refer to the University of Hawaiʻi System Style Guide that includes useful tips on references, proper names, and many practical writing topics in a university setting. The guide is based on The Chicago Manual of Style and provides guidance where the University of Hawaiʻi varies from the norm.

General writing guidelines

  • Consider your audience. What do they need to know, and why should they care? What information are they looking for? Is it easy to understand?
  • Use the inverted pyramid method, where the most important information is contained at the top of the page.
  • Be positive. Phrase sentences in the affirmative voice.

Use an affirmative voice

“The fall payment deadline is August 25 by 4:30 p.m. Hawaiʻi Standard Time. Payment not received by the deadline will result in canceled registration.”

Avoid negativity

“If payment is not received by August 25 at 4:30 p.m. Hawaiʻi Standard Time, you will be purged from all of your classes.”

  • Spell check and proofread the document before publishing (twice!). Remember, your materials represent our institution.
  • Be clear. Be concise. Write short sentences in simple English. Longer sentences are sometimes necessary or pleasing, but they should be interspersed with shorter statements.
  • Use an active voice.

Use an active voice

The committee approved the measure. I must…

Avoid using a passive voice

Approval of the measure was granted by the committee. It would be incumbent upon me to…

  • Refer to the University of Hawaiʻi System Style Guide for specific references to titles, degrees, areas of study etc.
  • Avoid unnecessary words. Use “now” instead of “at this point in time,” and leave it out entirely when the present is implied (e.g., Students are registering for spring classes). Also, avoid grandiose names for simple objects (e.g., “intra-agency communication vehicle” when you mean “newsletter”).
  • Avoid sexist and biased language. Style guides for inclusive and bias free language are available from the EEO/AA office at eeo@hawaii.edu or call 956-7077.
  • What separates us from the others? Build upon our Theory of Distinctiveness to differentiate us from other campuses. Consider aspects of UH West Oʻahu that make us stand out. Consider our signature academic programs, demographics, indigenous-serving mission, location, small class sizes, approachable faculty, and similar points of pride.
  • Cohesive messaging. Our content – words and imagery – should complement each other to provide context.
  • Use short copy and bulleted lists rather than big blocks of text. This is easier for all readers to scan, and it improves accessibility for users who depend on screen readers.