Public Affairs | Illinois

Public Affairs | Illinois University of Illinois homepage home page

Developing Print Materials

Navigation

image of art student installing her sculpture on the quad

Departments

Resources

Copywriting 101

You can hire top-notch photographers. You can create cleverly designed marketing materials. You can use the best printers around. But ultimately, it's the written word that conveys the exact information your readers need to understand. If your audience is missing your message, perhaps it's time to take a hard look at exactly what you are saying. Getting back to basics can help.

Know your audience

Why would your audience possibly care what you have to say? As a writer, it's your job to show them how your information will benefit them.

Know your subject

Do your research. Consult the experts, and if you are the expert, be sure to properly distill the information.

Know your purpose

What do you want your audience to do: Come to an event? Donate money? Stay informed about your research? Your piece doesn't have to be just one thing – but it shouldn’t try to be all things to all people.

Avoid jargon

Be sure your publications don’t require a PhD in academic jargon to be understood.

Understandable doesn’t mean dumbed down

Your audience isn’t dumb. They simply may not have your level of expertise.

Brevity is good

It's the soul of wit. It's also the soul of good writing.

Concise is better

Don't be brief at the expense of clarity. Yes, keep your writing short. But strive for being concise, rather than being brief, to get your message across.

Use examples

Examples can make your message clearer, more interesting, and more persuasive.

Be accurate

Dates, names, addresses, URLs, and titles all deserve a thorough double-checking.

Use an editor

Even editors use editors. A fresh pair of eyes can often spot errors that you might miss in reviewing already-familiar copy.

Copywriting Resources

University Writing Style Guide

Clear, consistent writing is critical to the success of any communication project at the University. This guide is designed to help communicators prepare body copy for external University communications intended for general audiences. While authors and editors are encouraged to use this guide, its use is not mandatory.

The writers workshop

The Writers Workshop, part of the Center for Writing Studies, provides free writing assistance for students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines and at all stages of the writing process. Contact the workshop for one-on-one assistance.

The Writers Workshop also maintains a list of editors for hire, most of whom are current University of Illinois English Department instructors who have expressed an interest in doing this type of work for an hourly or per project rate.

See the online resources from the Writers Workshop