Queen's University

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Style Guide

Writing Guidelines

Like most large post-secondary institutions, Queen’s University is a complex organization with communications directed at a broad array of audiences – including current and prospective students, staff, faculty, visiting professors and dignitaries, media, government, and the general public and local Kingston community. Written materials are tailored to specific audiences and editorial teams should decide the most appropriate ways to effectively convey information that meets both their needs and the needs of their audiences.

With that in mind, all communicators should aim to keep their writing as clear and concise as possible, and position their writing in line with the university’s strategic priorities, including the Academic Plan and the Strategic Research Plan, and the Strategic Framework.

Web writing, accessibility, and social media

Web writing

Writing for the web follows the same principle of clarity noted above, but extra attention should be placed on format. In general, online readers are multi-taskers, moving quickly from one thing to the next. More often than not, they are skimming and are best drawn into a story through concise, on-point writing. Special consideration should be given to graphical elements (photos, videos, charts); formatting tools such as headlines (compelling but clear), subheads, short paragraphs, bullets, pull quotes, and photo captions; as well as style elements such as text size, clean fonts, bold/italics, and colour.

There is some discussion around whether web writing needs to be short. Every audience will be different but the general consensus is that good writing and a good story will draw a reader in regardless of length. Write in the active voice, stay away from complex sentence structures, and use as many visual elements as possible.

Learn more about
Writing for the Web


Queen’s continually strives to improve accessibility on campus – and that includes information available online. The Accessibility Hub provides numerous resources to guide writers, editors, and web administrators, including information on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the Web Standards and Accessibility Development Guide, and specific How-to info on creating accessible documents and websites. Please consult the Accessibility Hub during all publication processes.

Social media





The university encourages Queen’s departments and faculties to use social media as a way to engage with the Queen’s community and beyond. The following are a few general guidelines to consider when using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook:

  • Remember to keep it short and sweet. You only have a few seconds to catch someone’s attention, and even less time to keep it.
  • Look for ways to distil an idea down to a single statement or elevator pitch that clearly and quickly communicates subject matter, tone and target audience, and provides further points of reference should audiences wish to dive deeper into the topic.
  • Speak to your target audience in a way that resonates with them and that is specific to the platform you are on.
  • When representing Queen’s in social media, be cautious of tone. Remember you are speaking on behalf of the university. Try to avoid slang, and while humour is important, be careful about posting something that not everyone would find funny and some might even find offensive.
  • Communications should be polite, professional and on-topic.