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WVUToday Style Guide

The WVUToday website is the source for news at WVU, informing students, employees, alumni, donors, legislators, other universities and the world about the people and events that are changing the university, the state and beyond.

If you write content for WVUToday, this guide is for you. If you write anything that you would like to be on WVUToday, this guide is for you. If you’re interested in publicizing your college or unit internally and to the wider world, this guide is for you. Some information is WVUToday-specific. Other guidelines can be applied to communications at WVU in general.

Because WVUToday is read and viewed by so many, we are striving for
a greater consistency in style and message, a task that rests with every communicator at WVU. Also, because the way we tell WVU’s story has changed, this updated version of our style guide will give you insight on how you can make the most of your content.

We hope you find this guide helpful in your role in marketing the University. Good luck!

Creating/Identifying the Story

Recognizing strong news stories.

Focus on What’s New

  • Is it related to current events?
  • Is it related to ongoing topics of local/ state/national/global interest?

Consider the Content

  • Does it address any of the University’s three strategic pillars (education, healthcare, prosperity)?
  • Does it reflect areas relevant to West Virginia Forward?
  • Does it address the college/school’s priorities?
  • Does it affect a key WVU or college/unit audience? (Prospective students, their parents, alumni/donors or other decision makers)
  • Does it include compelling or unique elements?

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

  • How does this affect our daily lives?
  • How does this affect the field of study?
  • What is the impact on the state?
  • What is the impact beyond the state?

SOME THINGS THAT ARE NOT (USUALLY) NEWS

  • A meeting, event, conference or the like. Academics go to these things all the time.
  • Nobody in the outside world cares.
  • Publication in a particular journal. See above.
  • A grant.
  • BUT, these things CAN be a peg for a bigger story you want to tell, e.g.:
  • West Virginia University researchers have made great progress in curing Alzheimer’s (and the research is published in The Most Important Medical Journal.)
  • Remember, it’s not the publication, grant, meeting, event, grant, etc. that’s the news; it’s the research, work, impact that is news and is the lead.

Story Formation Tips

When writing stories, here are some elements to keep in mind.

1. Goal

What do you want this story to do? Point to an outcome in line with the University’s goals. If you’re looking for donors, make it about something that inspires gift-giving. If you want students to enroll, give them a reason to enroll. And make it a reason that would encourage you to enroll at WVU.

2. Focus

What’s the story really about? On the surface, it may be about a student who wants to cure Alzheimer’s, but what it’s really about is a granddaughter’s inspiration and desire to make life better for others. Or it may be about a grant to produce a documentary on research, but what it’s really about is finding and training the next generation of scientists.

3. Audience

Remember, not everyone reading this is familiar with your college, your research, your awards or even WVU. Always be mindful of the story’s audience, which could be the general public, prospective students, alumni, prospective faculty, donors or any combination of these. The telling of the story will change based on the target. Even if the person you’re interviewing describes it in complicated and/or scientific terms, it’s your job to write the story in a manner that will be easily understood. Refrain from pulling sentences and/or phrases from Wikipedia or other websites to clarify information — put it in layman’s terms.

4. Photos to Help Tell Your Story

Every story should be accompanied by a feature photo — or art. Stories without them won’t
be featured on WVUToday’s front page. Please avoid taking and sending photos of people in meetings, at desks, eating, at podiums, in large groups performing the “fig leaf” pose, etc. Such photos are rarely used except when podium shots are necessary in high-profile events such as the Festival of Ideas and the president’s speeches, and not even then if a better shot is available. Candid action shots are much preferred to passive, posed ones. The art should also:

  • Be compelling. Tell the story.
  • Be high-res (photos not large enough cannot be featured)
  • Be horizontal, 3:2 ratio (feature)
  • Be .jpg files only, not gifs, tiffs or photo clippings in a Word document

5. Story Format

Not every story should be told the same way. Some stories need words on a page to make them come alive. Others are best expressed through photos, the capturing of a moment. Still others need the moving pictures of video. Others will attract through audio. Some stories may work best in a combination of these. WVUToday offers four ways to get your story to the media — and a fifth element that will enhance your biggest news.

Choosing Your Vehicle

Media Releases

Traditional Media Releases are excellent vehicles for in-depth research articles, announcements of large grants or dean-level changes in personnel, for example. Traditional releases nearly always address one of WVU’s three major “buckets” — education, health care, broad-based prosperity or a combination of them — and will always have a broad University perspective that communicates how this information will help people or change lives.

Requirements or What We Need:

  • Use Helvetica 12 (or Arial if not available to you) in your releases.
  • Use a horizontal photo with a 3:2 ratio for your feature.
  • Other photos, graphics, illustrations, etc. can be used on the sidebar.
  • Include photo captions that clearly note which picture they describe. Add the captions at the end of the release so all information is in one document.
  • Include photo credit: WVU Photo/ photographer name or provided photo. NOTE: Do not use “stock” photos.
  • Hyperlink West Virginia University.
  • Hyperlink college/school/unit/student organization name.
  • Hyperlink faculty names to their pages.
  • Hyperlink mentions of achievements or events to past stories.
  • For fun, include a social media post that succinctly describes your story (sometimes, it’s a great way to discover a lead). 

This is the Word document format that starts it all off on the right foot.

HEADLINE

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Your well-crafted lead.

And you write more in this paragraph.

Then you write some more in the next one.

And so on for about a page-and-a-half (less if you can, perhaps more for research articles).

Then you end it.

-WVU-

initials/mm/dd/yy

CONTACT: Your Name (hard return) Your title (hard return)
Your College/School (hard return) 304.293.####; your.email@mail.wvu.edu

Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.

Follow @ WVUToday on Twitter.
Here’s what it looks like on WVUToday.

What the media will see via WVUToday email: 

Screenshot of WVUToday email

Story Pitches

Perhaps your story is more focused, yet still has potential for earned media. In that case, a Story Pitch is a useful tool. Instead of a broad audience garnered via media coverage, media members are the audience for Story Pitches. A Story Pitch can easily incorporate audio and video (which we encourage).

Requirements or What We Need:

  • Use Helvetica 12 point.
  • Text quote (not too lengthy).
  • Audio file (can be more than the text, but no more than 2:00, roughly).
  • Use a horizontal photo with a 3:2 ratio for your feature.
  • Other photos, graphics, illustrations, etc. can be used on the sidebar or in resources section.
  • I nclude photo captions that clearly note which picture they describe. Add the captions at the end of the release so all information is in one document.
  • Include photo credit: WVU Photo/ photographer name or provided photo. NOTE: Do not use “stock” photos.
  • List of relevant online resources. Link to an original story.
  • List of target audiences. 

This is the Word document format that starts it all off on the right foot.

STORY PITCH: Headline

What’s the news?

Your well-crafted lead

Quotes and comments

Name Audio File: “Beginning of quote up to about six words.”

All the words they say. — Name, title, college/school/unit

Repeat as necessary for the number of people in your pitch.

Resources

List of your online sources, including
Link to original story (if applicable): Headline

Target Audiences

List of people who will be interested in this information.

-WVU-

initials/mm/dd/yy

CONTACT: Your Name (hard return) Your title (hard return)
Your College/School (hard return)
304.293.####; your.email@mail.wvu.edu

Call 1.855.WVU.NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.

Follow @ WVUToday on Twitter.
Here’s what it looks like on WVUToday.

What the media will see via WVUToday email:

Story idea screenshot

Expert Pitches

Expert Pitches follow roughly the same format, but are usually in response to something happening in the news cycle. You should pay close attention to both what’s happening in the world around you and know what faculty or other expert in your college/school/unit can comment  on it.

Requirements or What We Need:

  • Use Helvetica 12 point.
  • T ext quote (not too lengthy).
  • Audio and/or video files (no more than 2:00, roughly).
  • Use a horizontal photo with a 3:2 ratio for your feature.
  • Other photos, graphics, illustrations, etc.
  • Include photo captions that clearly note which picture they describe. Add the captions at the end of the release so all information is in one document.
  • Include photo credit: WVU Photo/ photographer name or provided photo. NOTE: Do not use “stock” photos.
  • Direct contact information for the expert.

This is the Word document format that starts it all off on the right foot.

EXPERT PITCH: Headline

What’s the news?

Your well-crafted lead.

Quotes:

Expert Name Audio File: “Beginning of the quote up to about six words ...”

All the words they say. — Name, title, college/school/unit

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.

-WVU-

initials/mm/dd/yy

CONTACT: Your Name (hard return) Your title (hard return)
Your College/School (hard return)
304.293.####; your.email@mail.wvu.edu

Call 1.855.WVU.NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.

Follow @ WVUToday on Twitter.
Here’s what it looks like on WVUToday.

Here’s how media see the finished product via WVUToday email:

Expert Pitches screenshot

Media Advisories

The final means of engagement is the Media Advisory . Usually for events for which you want coverage, the Media Advisory is a simple Who, What, When and Where of detail. The advisory can also include notes, an on-site contact or messages about best interview/ filming opportunities.

Requirements for What We Need:

  • Use Helvetica 12 point.
  • U se a horizontal photo with a 3:2 ratio for your feature.
  • Other photos, graphics, illustrations, etc.
  • Include photo captions that clearly note which picture they describe. Add the captions at the end of the release so all information is in one document.
  • Include photo credit: WVU Photo/ photographer name or provided photo. NOTE: Do not use “stock” photos. 

This is the Word document format that starts it all off on the right foot.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Headline

WHO: is involved

WHAT: is happening

WHEN: it’s happening (Date, time)

WHERE: it’s happening (Building, Street address, City)

NOTES: (optional, but sometimes necessary)

-WVU-

initials/mm/dd/yy

CONTACT: Your Name (hard return) Your title (hard return)
Your College/School (hard return)
304.293.####; your.email@mail.wvu.edu

Call 1.855.WVU.NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.

Follow @ WVUToday on Twitter.
Here’s what it looks like on WVUToday.

Here’s how media then see the finished product via WVUToday email:

Media Advisory screenshot

Media Tool Kits

Media Tool Kits are used for comprehensive projects and include photos, video and/or audio, graphic illustrations and any other element a reporter could use to tell the story. They are intended to be used in conjunction with a news release or other communication.

Media Took Kits we’ve developed in the recent past include:

  • CAFEE (Anniversary).
  • Dan Carder (Time 100 List).
  • Hota GangaRao.
  • WVU’s response to the 2016 Flood.

Here’s what it looks like on WVUToday:

Media Toolkit screenshot

Notes About Writing and AP Style

Finding ideas can sometimes be the hard part. Know what’s going on in your college/school/ unit and identify sources who can be points of contact. Look for the people who are “plugged in.” Reinforce the value of what you’re doing by sharing examples.

West Virginia University must be spelled out on first reference and thereafter written as WVU. The institution is also known as the University on second reference,

On most occasions, put WVU in the headline of a story. Your story is usually being distributed to a non-WVU audience. The media organizations are likely getting email from a variety of colleges and universities. We want them to instantly identify WVU as the source of the information. Headlines should only have the first word or any proper nouns capitalized. All other words should be lower-case.

As a rule, do not link to outside organizations. A few exceptions include links to event sign-ups hosted on other sites and sparing use of links to artist work if used to attract visitors to a WVU event. Linking is important for search engines such as Google. The more links you have in a story and the more links you have to highly-ranked sites such as the WVU.edu page, the more easily the story will be found online.

When attributing a quote or statement to someone, use “she said” instead of “said she” unless the individual’s title follows his or her name. You don’t talk that way, so don’t write that way. Avoid the temptation to use other words instead of “said;” it is  a perfectly good word and can be repeated without becoming repetitious. Words like “stated,” “allowed,” etc. are artificial or stilted; however, words like “explained” and “continued” are fine to break up the monotony once in awhile.

Example: “I’d like to fire all of my graduate students,” Attila the Hun said.

“I disagree with that approach,” said John Smith, chairman of the Department of History.

Avoid the “alphabet soup” of acronyms, which can hinder readability and the reader’s understanding. Certain instantly-recognizable acronyms are allowed on first reference, including FBI, CIA and NASA. But generally, write out the name of the organization on first reference, and use the acronym on second and subsequent references. Do not put the acronym in parentheses following the first reference. If the acronym can’t be understood in context on subsequent references, do not use it at all. Period. We are writing for the public, not the individuals we interview, so use general words like “the organization” and “the conference” to refer back to a body or event’s proper name.

When writing times, use lower case letters. Use periods with abbreviations. Also, there’s no need to include zeros for a time that falls on the hour. Do not use 12 noon or 12 midnight. Noon or midnight is sufficient.  An example: 4 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. (And remember, midnight is part of the day that precedes it.)

When writing dates, several months are abbreviated when paired with a day: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. (Example: The meeting will be held Oct. 4.) All other months are not abbreviated. Months are not abbreviated when they stand without the day. (Example: They went skiing in January 2019. They will go on vacation  i n August.) Also, the current year is always understood. So do not write “July 9, 2019.” Write “July 9” unless you are referring to a year other than the current one.

All ages of persons or animals with names should be expressed in numbers: Heather is 6 years old. Jennifer is 5 months old. Other numbers are generally spelled out until you reach 10. Example: She is purchasing five apples and 11 bananas.

The AP Stylebook has changed its mind about state abbreviations and recommends that state names are spelled out, with the exception of datelines. Also, certain U.S. and international cities are able to stand alone  without a state identification. For example, according to the style guide, it’s simply “Cleveland,” not “Cleveland, Ohio.” There are 24 U.S. cities and 24 international cities that can stand alone.

Once the dateline of MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — is established, there is no need to include the state of other West Virginia cities. Only cities in other states need to be distinguished that way.

Titles that follow a person’s name should not be capitalized.

Example: Maryanne Reed, provost at West Virginia University, is the former dean of the Reed College of Media.

You would capitalize most titles before a name.

Example: Speak to Dean Greg Dunaway about the matter.

Some informal titles should never be capitalized, including professor.

Majors are not capitalized unless they contain the name of a language.

Example: Sara is majoring in English. Brett is a math major.

The names of departments and colleges, and other proper names of places are capitalized as long as they are official titles.

Example: Suzanne is a professor in the WVU Department of Psychology. Mark teaches in the geography department. (hint: the official title is the Department of Geology and Geography.)

When attributing a quote, add the attribution following the first sentence of the quote, not at the end of an entire paragraph. This helps the reader quickly identify who is speaking.

Incorrect example: “The University is moving college students into the 21st century. Students at WVU are being prepared through courses in technology, engineering and math that spur critical and creative thinking,” professor Jane Smith said.

Correct example: “I grew into adulthood because of my fellowship to Russia,” Matt Smith said. “My time there changed the way I look at the world from then on.”

When writing about a student, always find out that student’s hometown. If it does not fit in the story, it can be placed in an editor’s note at the top of the story or in a photo caption. Often this will determine whether any outlet selects your story for publication.

Other ways we can help:

  • Assist with editing or writing.
  • Distribute content or help you build your own media distribution list.
  • Make media pitches.
  • Arrange news conferences, interviews and satellite uplinks.
  • Determining how you can best use internal communications like MOUNTAINEER

E-News, which reaches faculty and staff, and Unews, which students receive Mondays and Thursdays during fall and spring semesters.

If you find you need other help — distribution to a select few media outlets, on-the-spot AP Style advice, institutional memory of when things occurred, for example — don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

This guide is a reference to use when faced with style, format and other basic questions as you promote WVU. It is not all-encompassing, and may be updated periodically. Any suggestions, questions or comments can be e-mailed to: April Kaull, Director of News, April.Kaull@mail.wvu.edu