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Copy and Editorial

The UCLA identity is verbal as well as visual: what we say and how we say it creates an instant impression of UCLA. Here are some of the basics about names and naming, headlines and copy, and editorial style to help reflect the university’s unique voice and identity.

Copy Tone

Headlines and copy associated with the UCLA brand should convey the energy and optimism of the brand, the limitless opportunity and pioneering spirit of UCLA.

Writing Compelling Headlines

In print and online, headlines are a critical way to engage readers. Often what bogs down a good headline is trying to cram in too much information. The best headlines are fairly simple and convey a single idea.

This headline is long, complex and forgettable:
In a city as diverse and culturally significant as Los Angeles, you’ll be exposed to a vast array of experiences that will make you more competitive in a global world.

This version is memorable and concise:
It’s a lot easier to change the world when it’s in your backyard.

Spend the extra time to make headlines as engaging as possible.

One caution: headlines that work in print may not translate online. For instance, in a magazine “Bruins Who Score” is intriguing. Because the reader sees a photo of a composer at work and a subhead that begins “UCLA’s film composing students,” there’s no confusion about the subject of the story. But in a list of search results, “Bruins Who Score” sounds like a sports story. “Film Composers: Bruins Who Score” might be a better choice for web.

Writing Body Copy and Long Form Editorial

“Body copy” refers to short paragraphs of text in ads, brochures and marketing materials. In body copy, tone is crafted through word choice, sentence structure and point of view. To achieve a conversational tone, use relatively simple words and sentences, and write in active voice.

Sometimes body copy is in the second person, directed to “you,” the reader. Sentence fragments can make the copy more dynamic. Concrete details can paint a vivid picture for the reader.

“Long form” refers to press releases, magazine stories, and other lengthier material. While long form editorial can be lively and engaging, it’s a little more formal than body copy. Avoid sentence fragments, and generally write in the third person.

Whether writing body copy or long form, keep the reader in mind. An annual report needs to be more serious and technical than a recruitment piece aimed at a high school student.

But whenever possible, make your writing UCLA-specific. If you’re interviewing alumni, ask how their careers were shaped by their UCLA experience. In writing faculty profiles, find out what attracted them to UCLA. In describing research breakthroughs, get a quote about possible impact.

The online Hemingway App can be a useful tool in analyzing your writing.

Editorial Style Guide

Geffen Hall is not another name for Geffen Academy. Luskin Conference Center’s name cannot be shortened to “Luskin Center” without risking confusion. The UCLA editorial style guide provides guidance on these and many other questions of campus style.

Based on Associated Press (AP) style, the UCLA editorial style guide is used by Strategic Communications so that UCLA press releases and publications will have consistent punctuation, abbreviations and word choice. Because of its roots in newspaper style, the UCLA guide doesn’t use the Oxford comma.

Academic units often follow different style guides. The Chicago Manual of Style is a popular choice, as are the style guides of the Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), American Chemical Society (ACS) and others. But even if you follow one of these discipline-specific choices, the UCLA editorial style guide can be useful. More than 40 percent of its entries deal with campus-specific names and local usage.


UCLA Dictionary of Style (PDF 462 KB)