Appendix: Writing Style Guide
With some exceptions, the College’s Marketing department adheres to the standards set out by the Canadian Press Stylebook and Caps and Spelling Guide.
When writing for marketing, keep certain basics in mind. Applying these standards will help ensure content is consistent, and that users with basic reading skills can understand the information presented.
- Do not underline. Underlined words suggest hyperlinks.
- Use bold fonts to highlight words or short phrases when appropriate. (Do not use all-caps.)
- Use simple language. Use a short word instead of a long one when you have a choice.
e.g.: You will use a range of resources.
not: You will utilize a range of resources.
Write Strong, Short Sentences and Paragraphs
Simple, clear and concise writing will help readers understand your message.
- Strengthen your sentences by using the active voice and making one point per sentence. Place the subject of the sentence at the beginning if you can.
- Where possible, avoid jargon or overly technical language.
- Build each paragraph around a single idea or topic. One to three sentences is often enough.
- Write directly to readers by referring to them in the second person. The second person is the “you” voice. This voice is friendly and helps readers feel you are speaking directly to them.
e.g.: You will receive comprehensive flight training.
not: Students will receive comprehensive flight training.
Miscellaneous Language and Style
- Do not double-space after periods.
- Spell out numbers from zero to nine. Use numerals for 10 and greater.
- Abbreviations should be used for specific dates (Oct. 31, 2020), but not in cases where only the month is referenced (October 2020).
- Avoid ampersands, unless they’re part of a proper noun.
- Use lower-case for job titles, but upper-case when making reference to specific individuals.
e.g.: He was trained as a business systems analyst.
e.g.: The class was led by RRC Business Systems Analyst Jane Doe.
Divide Text Into Small Sections
Use section headings as described in this document. They help readers to find and understand content more quickly.
- Present lists as bulleted items. Use periods consistently — either throughout or not at all.
Sharing Links in Documentation
Including links digitally is slightly different than in physical documentation due to the way the user visits the link. In an email or on a website, the length of the link doesn’t matter since the user simply taps or clicks it to get to the right place. However, in printed documentation, keeping the URL relatively short is important since the reader has to manually type it into their device.
Websites, Emails and other Digital Documentation
When including links in websites, emails or digital documentation, it’s best to hide the exact link behind the text of what you’re linking to and avoiding language like “click here”. For example, if you’re sending out an email to a student and want to include the link to the Application to Graduate:
Congratulations on finishing your program at Red River College! Don’t forget to fill out the Application to Graduate by June 4, 2019, to participate in the convocation ceremony.
Congratulations on finishing your program at Red River College! Don’t forget to fill out the Application to Graduate by clicking https://www.rrc.ca/supports/student-records/application-to-graduate/ by June 4, 2019, to participate in the convocation ceremony.
Letters and Printed Documentation
When including links in physical letters or other printed documentation, you’ll want to use an approved short URL and, if necessary, include brief instructions on where the document is. For example, if you’re sending a letter to a student and want to include the Application to Graduate link:
Congratulations on finishing your program at Red River College! Don’t forget to fill out the Application to Graduate, found in the Applications section at rrc.ca/forms, by June 4, 2019, to participate in the convocation ceremony.
Congratulations on finishing your program at Red River College! Don’t forget to fill out the Application to Graduate at https://www.rrc.ca/supports/student-records/application-to-graduate/ by June 4, 2019, to participate in the convocation ceremony.
On first reference, always use the full name of organizations, companies, departments or initiatives, but include the corresponding acronym in parentheses. Even common acronyms might not be recognized or understood by non-Canadians or English-as-additional-language students.
e.g.: This course is credited by the Certified Technicians and Technologists Association of Manitoba (CTTAM).
Quotes and Testimonials
When formatting quotations or testimonials, ensure punctuation marks such as periods or commas fall within the quotation marks, not outside. Always include the full name (and title, if applicable) of the person being quoted on first reference. On subsequent reference, it’s OK to use a single name, either first or last.
e.g.: “This world-class project will provide sustainable heating to cold-climate communities,” said Alex Siemens, communications director at Red River College. “It also serves as a successful partnership model for applied learning and innovation.”
If a parenthetical aside comes at the end of a sentence, the period should be placed after the closing parenthesis. If the entire sentence is bounded by parentheses, the period should come before the closing parenthesis.
e.g.: Smaller class sizes allow for close connections between students (who might not have the same opportunities at larger institutions).
e.g.: Regular classes run Monday to Friday. (Students still have access to the campus on weekends.)
References to Other Websites or Web Pages
When referring readers to another RRC web page or website, use the verb “see” to introduce the link. Use shortened URLs, whenever possible.
e.g.: For an overview of our 75th Celebration, see rrc.ca/75years.
When referring readers to external web sites, use the verb “visit” to introduce the link.
e.g.: For more information, visit Human Resources and Skill Development Canada at rhdcc-hrsdc.gc.ca.
The College’s preferred format for phone numbers uses dots, not dashes. If using dashes, do so consistently throughout. Always include area codes, but don’t put them in parentheses.
Ensure that College URLs or email addresses no longer include “mb”.
Obviously, a considerable degree of flexibility exists when formatting abbreviations, addresses, job titles, honourifics and other particulars (including dates and times). In all cases, it’s more important to strive for consistency throughout a given document or promotional piece.