Tone of voice

On this page

Style guide

Tone of voice


Tone of voice is not what we say. It’s how we say it. It’s the language we use and the personality we show through it. 

We have created a tone of voice to give Sheffield Hallam University a more distinct place in the market. Having a clear voice will also help us all to agree on marketing outputs. It also better demonstrates the value we bring to our many audiences – students, staff, businesses, the Sheffield community and government bodies. 

Our tone of voice reflects our high-quality teaching, applied learning, collaborative approach to partnerships and impactful research. It will help us bring to life our vision to be the world’s leading applied university.

But remember, these are guidelines, not a rulebook. They are not designed to make everyone sound the same and you can always bring your own personality to your communications.

Our tone of voice principles 

Proudly Sheffield 

An important part of Sheffield Hallam’s identity is its heritage and connection to the city. 

Sheffield is a great place to live, work and study, and we think this comes down to its inclusivity and sense of community. We work hard to make sure everyone feels welcome here. We also work closely with partners and external stakeholders to make sure our work opportunities and civic agenda have a positive impact on our region.

Our tone of voice helps us communicate authentically what it means to be a part of Sheffield’s fabric. By writing in a driven, confident, down to earth and open way, we will echo the character of the city we love. 


Everything we do is grounded in industry. This is an important reason why our degrees deliver high-quality education and bring work-ready people to our business partners. 

Our staff have sector links and experience. We understand industry challenges and what our business partners and external stakeholders need. And we always put our teaching into real-world context. This is what knowledge applied means to us. 

To build trust in our approach, we write with confidence about our research and expertise. It helps people know they’re in safe hands with us.

How to sound confident
  • Get to the point quickly and avoid verbal padding. It’s ‘Sheffield is’, not ‘we think Sheffield can be seen as’. 
  • Don’t patronise or dumb down. Assume intelligence but not subject knowledge. 
  • Include examples. If possible, make these examples industry focused.
  • Try to include a reason or benefit that people can relate, no matter their background. Keep this short and to the point to drill home the message. 
  •  Avoid using colloquial language and academic jargon. You want to show you’re an authority on the subject without sounding pretentious. 
  • Be selective about the facts and figures we use. Too many can sound as though we’re trying too hard to back ourselves.


We are outward looking and driven to transform lives. As well as offering new opportunities, we actively push our stakeholders to try new things. 

We encourage students to put their learnings into action, opening doors to good careers. We give staff the freedom to explore their own ideas. We use our research to drive industry growth. And we connect businesses with innovative thinking. 

Being driven means wanting to inspire everyone to be the best they can be and fostering curiosity to solve problems. We may not have all the answers yet, but we’re nurturing minds that will.

How to sound driven 
  • Start with what’s most important to the reader and then show how we help people get there. 
  • Focus on impacts and put them into real-world context. 
  • Ask thought-provoking questions. 
  • Mix up sentence lengths to build pace and momentum. This helps us sound enthusiastic without veering into excitement or giddiness. 
  • Where possible, choose verbs over nouns. It’s “changing minds” not “the changing of minds.” 
  • Also use lots of verbs – inspire, encourage, motivated, driving. This creates a sense of action. 
  • Use the active voice, always. It’s “we changed” not “it was changed by us”.

Down to earth 

Sheffield isn’t a showy place, and neither are we. We’re authentic to our regional identity, and we welcome everyone to be true to themselves too. 

Because we’re down to earth, we stay grounded and relevant. It helps us show that everything we do is industry related and based on the real world. It also helps us show businesses, government bodies, students and staff that we understand them and their concerns.

How to sound down to earth
  • Use plain English. ‘Make sure’ not ‘ensure’, ‘start’ not ‘commence’. 
  • Avoid jargon. If you have to use an industry term, explain what it means.
  • Avoid business buzzwords like ‘synergy’ and ‘bandwidth’, as these can alienate, or worse, irritate. 
  • Avoid colloquial or regional sayings – these can make people feel unwelcomed. 
  • Mix your contractions. Both ‘it’s’ and ‘it is’ are fine. As are ‘we’re’ and ‘we are’. It sounds more natural. 
  • Use simple sentence structures and avoid rambling. Think one point per sentence and keep lists short.


Our staff say they feel a sense of belonging at Sheffield Hallam. And our students say they feel welcomed and included, in our university and our city. Our openness isn’t just about being friendly – it goes deeper than that. We encourage equality and diversity by showing people that we care about them as individuals. We have time for everyone, and we listen. 

How to sound open
  • We focus on what’s most important for the reader. Don’t make assumptions – if you don’t know, ask. 
  • Invite feedback to create a two-way conversation. It also shows humility. 
  • Try to refresh your vocabulary rather than using the same words and phrases all the time. It helps to create a personal touch. 
  • Talk directly to the reader using ‘you’ and ‘we’. And make it personal by using ‘you’ as much as ‘we.’

Style guide

Style points are essential elements to our writing. Getting them right helps our brand to be consistent. For style guidance, please view our style guide

On this page

Style guide