Guidelines for writing text

Follow these guidelines for all channels and audiences (with exceptions in parentheses):

Informal is the preferred tone of writing and is used in most JMU writing. It captures the warm, friendly atmosphere of JMU.

When writing special communications that need to convey gravity please follow the formal guidelines. This may be used for communications regarding tragedy, emergency, celebrity or notoriety; the writer may choose to employ a formal tone when appropriate for the subject matter and audience.

Please refer to the resources and guidelines in the Madison Style as you are writing. 


Guiding principles

  • When possible, tell the story through PEOPLE, such as a professor (not a college), or a student inventor (not the invention). Emphasize the value of JMU to society through sectors of public interest.
    • Advancing Culture
    • Boosting Innovation and Discovery
    • Competing in Athletics
    • Improving Health Care
    • Increasing Access
    • Leading in Business
    • Reforming Education
    • Renewing Civil Society
  • Maintain grammatical standards and dignity
  • Use active voice


  • Madison Experience is unique and superior
  • Make a difference
  • Be the Change
  • Solve problems
  • Be useful
  • JMU is a family, a community (for Faculty/Staff, Friends)


  • convey JMU culture of relaxed, involved, community
  • humor permissible


  • Associated Press stylebook and JMU style guide
  • Contractions, such as “I’m” for “I am,” etc. are permissible
  • Use of 2nd person is permissible

All definitions are the same as “Informal” except:

  • Humor is not permissible
  • Avoid contractions
  • Do not highlight “JMU is a family, a community (for Faculty/Staff, Friends)”
  • Use of 2nd person is not permissible

Including these words will help your writing sound like JMU. Use these words—not synonyms—whenever possible and appropriate.

  • challenge
  • discovery
  • rewarding
  • support
  • curious
  • self-discovery
  • enlightened
  • citizens
  • innovative
  • entrepreneurial
  • global
  • community
  • genuine

Use in addition to the informal words:

  • engagement
  • civic engagement
  • engaged learning
  • community engagement

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