Capturing Southeast in Words
At Southeast Missouri State, we take pride in our will to do: the commitment and heart to find success, no matter what it takes. We give every student personal support that instills a strong sense of confidence and helps them exceed their potential. We offer groundbreaking academics that are comprehensive and dynamic. And because we anticipate the needs of the marketplace, we ensure our students are ready to launch extraordinary careers.
What does the Will to Do mean?
Southeast is a different kind of university. Here, we don’t just learn. We do. How? By giving our students unprecedented opportunity to apply all the knowledge and expertise they learn in class in real-world ways through experiential learning opportunities right here on campus or in internships and clinicals across the world. It’s also about our will to do: the grit and tenacity we apply to every endeavor to ensure our students are confident, capable, and competitive when they graduate.
How to use the brand
The Will to Do is not a tagline, and it’s not something you’ll apply in the majority of headlines. Instead, use the idea it represents as a starting point for crafting communications and to gut-check the energy and tone of voice.
Usually, we believe actions speak louder than words. When it comes to the Southeast message and voice, our words are pretty powerful, too. And when we choose them based on a consistent, deliberate writing style, there’s no limit to what they can do.
When we talk about Southeast, it’s important to speak in benefits and attributes. An attribute is what we offer our students: knowledge, services, products, unique offers we bring to the table. A benefit is what students get. It’s the value of the attributes we offer.
Structuring your messages this way is necessary because what we give and what our audiences get go hand in hand and play a key role in telling the complete Southeast story and supporting our core messages.
As an institution, we’re made up of many different people with distinct personalities. As a brand, we have a personality as well. It’s what gives our brand authenticity, and that’s why all of our communications should reflect these traits.
We're proud of our character and our strengths, but never arrogant.
We're realists at heart, always acting with intention and purpose.
We wholeheartedly embrace people, showing them respect and kindness.
We're down-to-earth, reflecting on our achievements with humility.
We're go-getters who seize opportunities and dive into our work.
We're industrious, not only contributing fresh ideas, but also finding a way to make them happen.
Voice is our personality come to life when we write and when we talk. It pushes the creative envelope. To make sure we don’t push it too far, keep these tips in mind. By staying consistent, we can be confident that everyone is writing in the same voice.
- Be challenging, but not demanding.
- Be eager, but not pushy.
- Be welcoming, but not sentimental.
- Be confident, but not arrogant.
- Be inspiring, but not implausible.
- Be direct, but not brash.
When crafting content, ask yourself these six questions to help capture the Southeast voice:
- Does this communication represent the bold spirit of the will to do?
- Does it include a benefit for the reader?
- Do we back up the benefit with an attribute of Southeast Missouri State University?
- Does it sound like something a person with our (brand) personality would say?
- Is body copy also written in our voice?
- Does the piece focus on a single key idea?
Our positioning statement represents the Southeast brand at its highest level--capturing our spirit and our impact. It’s what happens when our messaging meets our voice.
At Southeast Missouri State University, we’re here to put in the work. And we don’t have time for boasting. We’re too busy building, researching, healing, creating, and learning. Because real credit can’t be given. It has to be earned. By coming to the table with big ideas and taking action while taking nothing for granted.
Our region needed a cultural center, so we built one. Our students need cutting-edge programs, so we create them. Our community needs top teachers, caregivers, and agricultural minds, so we prepare them.
We’re giving everything we’ve got. And earning everything we get. Because progress isn’t promised to anybody. It will be made by those with the courage to question. The hunger to know. And the will to do.
Our colors say a lot about who we are. They help identify us at a glance, and set the tone for our communications, whether that’s bold and powerful, or inspirational and passionate.
Our primary colors should be visible in all communications.
C | 2
C | 40
Our secondary palette is a perfect complement to our primary red and black. It adds balance and flexibility to our communications.
C | 7
R | 157
C | 20
R | 132
C | 100
R | 0
C | 52
R | 113
C | 75
R | 39
C | 30
R | 164
C | 18
R | 219
C | 0
R | 255
C | 67
R | 91
C | 16
R | 122
C | 29
R | 137
C | 28
R | 173
C | 21
R | 162
C | 48
R | 143
Strategic use of white space allows our readers to focus on what’s truly important, and keeps them from feeling overwhelmed by an overabundance of graphics and messaging.
C | 0
M | 0
Y | 0
K | 0
R | 255
G | 255
B | 255
Using the right colors is essential, but using them in correct proportion is also critical. Refer to this block of colors to consistently determine the correct balance of colors throughout our communications.
The way our words look depends on the typeface. How our message reads hinges on hierarchy. Paying careful attention to both will help our communications read loud and clear. Our brand fonts are purchased fonts. Obviously, not every office on campus has resources to purchase the font package, so we’ve also outlined alternatives below.
Calibre Black is used primarily for headlines, but can also be used for subheads and call-outs.
Alternate Font: When Calibre is not available, Arial and Arial Black are suitable replacements.
Lyon Display is used in combination with Calibre Black for headlines. Used primarily for body copy and headlines in advancement pieces.
Alternate Font: When Lyon Display is not available, Times New Roman is a suitable replacement.
As you create content, there are some important things to consider while you work. Everything we do on semo.edu has a purpose. Every page created is not just a source of information, but also a place where we expect the user to do something with that information. Everyone needs to be able to access that information.
Keep these things in mind as you go forward:
- semo.edu’s primary audience is prospective students
- Some users may be using technology to assist them
- Examples include screen readers, keyboard shortcuts, head wands or mouth sticks
- Some users may not be able to read at a Grade 15 level
Writing Web Content
Remember, Users Scan Before Reading
As web users, we all scan before reading. We don’t read word-for-word until we think we’ve found the content we’re looking for. To accommodate this behavior and get your content read, you should:
- Break your content into small chunks, using separate headers with main ideas and keywords.
- Begin with your most important information.
- Highlight what you want them to do on the page.
Because of this scanning behavior and search engine optimization, proper heading use is very important.
- Headings are not design decisions.
- They provide document structure.
- They give scanning users a place to start.
Proper heading use begins with Heading 1 (H1), and every web page has only one. Followed by Heading 2 (H2), your main page topics. Heading 3 (H3) is a subhead of Heading 2, Heading 4 (H4) is a subhead of Heading 3, etc. Multiple uses of Headings 2-6 are permitted on a page as needed.
User Tasks and Content Length
Users arrive on a page because they are looking for or trying to do something.
- Every piece of content you write has a job to do for the University.
- Primarily this is recruiting new students.
- Secondary jobs can include providing information to current students, community partners, and donors.
- “Tl;dr” (too long, didn’t read) is a real risk.
- Do not present users with a “Wall of Text.” These huge pieces of text are difficult to read, find relevant information, and likely will not be successful in your goal.
Calls to Action
When we create content for our web pages, we expect users to do something with that information. In general, we’re expecting prospective students to be searching for the degree they’re interested in, looking to apply, and/or looking to enroll. Of course, there may be other audiences for specific pages on semo.edu, but we still expect them to do something with the information they are viewing.
- Every page needs at least one call to action prompting users to take a specified action.
- Use a verb to describe this call to action.
- A call to action can be a link in copy or a stand-alone text link.
- Components like the Announcement or the Call to Action can help highlight your user’s next step.
Brand Standards (link to Brand Standards) outlined by Marketing and Communications should be observed when creating content for your site. Message and voice are the most important for you as a web content creator, but standards for colors, fonts, graphics, and photos should be observed when requesting a document or image upload.
Context is Important
Your content should consider where it’s being presented (the web), your audience, and your topic. While your main audience is likely prospective students, we also have parents, current students, faculty and staff, and community members who visit the site. You have some flexibility in your style of address depending on who you’re speaking to.
Generally, you should remember:
- Simple sentences are easier to read online.
- Long sentences are easy to misread or misunderstand.
- Be personable.
- Don’t use the third person (the student, the university, the office of) in web content unless you are deliberately creating distance from your audience. We don’t want our users to feel like objects.
- Don’t overload users with information.
- Provide specific facts with clear, concise language.
- Too little: You will get the information you need during orientation.
- Grounded: Orientation includes academic advising, campus tours, student IDs, and social activities.
- Well-grounded: During orientation, you consult with an advisor, find your way to the library and other key campus buildings, pose for your ID picture and meet other new students.
- Too much: At orientation, you meet with a professor from your department as well as an academic advisor; both help you plan your first semester’s courses, including a first-year seminar, prerequisites for your likely major, and the distributions required for graduation.
A useful resource when writing is the Hemingway App (link). It will help you identify passive voice, when sentences are too long or too complex, when a simpler word might work better, and help you to keep your writing around a Grade 8 or 9 level. Remember, our primary audience is prospective students which includes 8th and 9th graders; we want them to be able to read and understand.
Southeast’s editorial style and standards are grounded in the Associated Press Style Book (AP).
Practice and Exceptions to AP
The University Style Guide summarizes the most frequently used AP rules and University practices not detailed in AP. This is a quick reference for our web editors.
- On first reference, the University should be referred to as Southeast Missouri State University. On second reference, the University, Southeast or Southeast Missouri State is acceptable.
- Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc.
- When stating the full degree, capitalize the name of the degree, but not the discipline, unless the discipline is part of the formal name of the degree.
The only disciplines that should be capitalized in degree names are names of foreign languages, such as English.
Do not use the word “degree” when the formal academic degree title is already referenced as this is repetitive.
- The Master of Business Administration or Master of Business Administration program is referred to on second reference as the MBA program.
- Use doctoral degree or doctorate. Do not use doctorate degree.
- Omit periods in most acronyms for academic degrees with three letters or more. Use periods for abbreviations of two letters.
- Course work is two words.
- Academic departments should be “Department of (discipline)” The words “Department” and the discipline should both be uppercased. When referring to multiple departments in the same reference, lowercase the word “departments” and the discipline, unless the discipline is a proper noun, such as English.
- Lowercase the names of disciplines, except in reference to languages.
- Healthcare is one word when used in reference to degree programs and courses incorporating the word.
- Capitalize college when part of a proper name.
- Please refer to the following list for the proper names of Southeast’s Colleges:
- College of Education, Health, and Human Services
- College of Humanities, and Social Sciences
- College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
- Donald L. Harrison College of Business and Computing
- Earl and Margie Holland College of Arts and Media
- Please refer to the following list for the proper names of Southeast’s academic departments:
- Department of Accounting, Economics, and Finance
- Department of Computer Science
- Department of Marketing
- Department of Management
- Department of Child and Family Studies
- Department of Communication Disorders
- Department of Elementary, Early, and Special Education
- Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation
- Department of Leadership, Middle, and Secondary Education
- Department of Nursing
- Department of Psychology and Counseling
- Department of Communication Studies, and Modern Languages
- Department of Criminal Justice, Social Work, and Sociology
- Department of English
- Department of History and Anthropology
- Department of Political Science, Philosophy, and Religion
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Biology
- Department of Chemistry and Physics
- Department of Engineering and Technology
- Department of Mathematics
- Department of Art and Design
- Department of Mass Media
- Department of Music
- The Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance
- The Jane Stephens Honors Program is always referred to as such on first reference. On second reference “Stephens Honors Program” may be used.
- The word “theatre” should always be spelled as such, both in reference to a facility or art.
Proofreading and Quality Assurance
Every department on campus who owns content on the website should develop a schedule for content review, updates, and archiving. This includes copy, photos, profiles, calls to action, and so on. Keeping content up to date and fresh not only means that prospective students and other audiences are getting correct information, but also helps with search engine optimization.
This review cycle should anticipate your users’ cyclical needs for information. You may have daily or weekly changes, while others only need to make changes on a semester-to-semester basis. If you’re not sure how to set up your review dates, here are some suggestions:
- Start with the date your users will need your content.
- Work backwards for your usual work process – how long does it take you to find, update, verify, and publish that content?
- Go back at least two weeks further. Vacations, illness, and life happen.
- For the greatest lifespan between review cycles, most content should be evergreen. Don’t use specific dates or time-sensitive calls to action that must be updated every cycle. Consider a general statement and link to a page that contains up to date hours, deadlines, or other time-sensitive information.
- Our site operates on a block/component system, where a block can be created once and used in multiple places. If you plan correctly, you can update the content in only one place in order to update the content across your site.
As we discussed before, semo.edu’s audience is wide-reaching and includes people who have a wide range of abilities and disabilities. For example, people with a visual impairment use software that reads the site aloud. For these users, there is one more machine interface between your words and them.
The heavy lifting of website accessibility generally falls upon the developers and designers, but you as a content editor also have specific responsibilities in making sure your content is accessible to everyone. As you write your content for your site, prepare it for users who:
- Use a voice synthesizer to read/see the site
- Use an assistive pointing device rather than a mouse or trackpad
- Want to read the audio track of a video or podcast
Writing for these circumstances begins with using clear, direct language. Clear and simple language improves accessibility. Active voice works better than passive. Use orthodox spelling.
Our goal is a site that is accessible to all users and our standard is WCAG 2.0, Level AA. “WCAG” stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a standard published by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). If you’d like more information, it’s available on the Section 508 site.
Creating accessible content is a mix of technology, design, and content standards. Major areas for content editors to pay special attention to are:
- Non-text content (photos, videos, audio) that is informative or functional has a text alternative
- Links embedded in the text are distinct and informative (not “Click here”)
- Data charts and tables have complete descriptions explaining the data available to be read aloud by the screen reader
- The language of the content is specified (applies to documents content editors want to upload)
- Graphics should provide enough contrast between text and background (black text on a red background is not enough contrast)
Word Docs and PDFs
The issue of uploading Word documents and PDF files is heavily rooted in accessibility and usability. From a usability standpoint, more than 60% of our users are browsing our site on a mobile device. PDF files are difficult to view on a mobile screen and Word documents cannot be read at all. If the information in your file is important, you should consider creating an HTML webpage instead. Web pages are more accessible, built to be easily browsable on a mobile screen and are simpler to update.
If your document must be on the website, it must also meet accessibility standards. Heading structure for documents is the same as described previously for web pages. Longer documents should have a table of contents to help users find information quickly and easily; if you have created your heading structure appropriately in Word, generating a table of contents is as easy as two clicks.