Resident wordsmith Jack Whitfield talks through the Dos and Don’ts of copywriting and proofreading.
Good copy, bad copy
I sometimes encounter copy that buries achievements deep within the text. ‘Kill your darlings’ does not apply to academic success!
So, how do you ensure you’re not selling yourself short?
This is a mock-up paragraph:
The College of Arts and Law, which is led by Professor John Smith and was awarded first-place for student satisfaction, is delivering several new joint-honours courses.
Now, shout about your achievements:
The College of Arts and Law was awarded first-place for student satisfaction amongst all universities in The Times’ Student Satisfaction Survey 2022.
The College, which is led by Professor John Smith, is delivering several new joint honours courses.
Russell Group-standard grammar
As a Russell Group University (or should that be ‘university’?), we have an expectation of excellence to reach across our copy.
Here are some ‘objectively objectionable’ grammar mistakes I often encounter and how to avoid them.
Correct: She decided to enrol on the course instantly.
Awkward: She decided to instantly enrol on the course.
Correct: Speeding down the hall, he saw the door to his English class come into view.
Incorrect: Speeding down the hall, the door to his English class came into view.
Example: ‘The clock tower was named for the British statesman, Joseph Chamberlain, after its construction.’
Framing ‘Chamberlain’ with commas implies he was the British statesman – the only one!
University house style
When writing as an employee of the University of Birmingham, you should use the corporate
voice rather than an individual one.
The University has a house style for academic terminology, so ensure you’re on the same page about:
- A levels or A-Levels?
- Prof. or Professor?
- Masters or Master’s?
Our in-house copy editor works directly with the video team to avoid these typical scriptwriting pitfalls.