We should always write in Sightsavers’ ‘brand voice’, which dictates what we say and how we say it.
This ensures that all our written work, across the organisation in all the countries where we work, is consistent, recognisable and accessible for all.
We want our tone of voice to be clear, accessible and easy to understand. Our writing should be authoritative and intelligent, but also down to earth, using everyday language and avoiding medical, scientific and marketing jargon and business-speak.
It’s direct, to the point, simple language, no unnecessary words.
It’s full of jargon, business-speak and acronyms, long sentence, very wordy.
If you’re in doubt about the wording to use, explain what you’re trying to say in your own words, out loud, to a friend or colleague. This will encourage you to use shorter sentences and more colloquial language.
Where possible, it is important for us to tailor the content to specific audiences. For example, government bodies may want information presented to them in a certain form and tone, while individual supporters or fundraisers may prefer a different approach.
Write emotive copy, featuring inspirational personal narratives of beneficiaries. Show the need together with the solution. This audience may not be familiar with the intricacies of our work, so avoid all jargon and explain all acronyms. Be careful not to use business-speak.
Communicate expertise and value, emphasising Sightsavers’ authority. Again, steer clear of acronyms and jargon: assume that this audience has a limited knowledge of the areas in which we work. Offer clear case studies that show the impact we have and the potential return on investment.
This audience will be more familiar with our work so more technical language can be used, as long as it is clearly written and easy to understand: remember that English may not be the recipients’ first language. Simple summary documents can be particularly useful.
Sightsavers’ research audience will be highly literate and used to reading technical documents about our areas of work. But this doesn’t mean our writing should be flowery or complex. Technical terms can be used, but avoid long sentences or overly formal language.
Remember that this audience’s first language may not be English. They are unlikely to be familiar with our work, so avoid all jargon and business-speak, and explain all acronyms clearly. Write emotive text, featuring personal narratives that the audience can relate to.
Communication should be clear and straightforward so it can be understood by as many colleagues as possible, including those whose first language may not be English. All staff have different specialities and may not be familiar with the intricacies of all our work, so technical terms and acronyms should be explained.
We should always aim to feature the voices of the people Sightsavers works with, rather than speaking for them.
Allowing people to share their own experiences makes our content stronger and more credible, authentic and inclusive.
Think about the words you use when having a conversation, and use these in your writing. Avoid using overly formal words such as ‘thereby’, ‘therefore’, ‘thus’, ‘shall’ and ‘hence’, particularly if a simpler word such as ‘so’, ‘will’, ‘like’, or ‘but’ will do the job just as well.
It’s not about over-simplifying our content. It’s about saving people’s time and making sure they don’t have to re-read your writing to decipher what you mean.
These follow the sequence ‘subject > verb > object’. They are more direct, easier to understand and are closer to how people speak.
Longer isn’t always better. Re-read what you’ve written to see if you can make it more concise: it will be far quicker and easier to read.
Our brains take in information more easily when it’s broken into small chunks.
If you stumble over any sentences, or they seem too long, convoluted or confusing, rewrite them.
Unclear, flowery or confusing writing is an accessibility barrier to all readers, but can be particularly difficult for people with dyslexia, autism or other cognitive conditions.
However, it is important for Sightsavers to use appropriate language when referring to disability, and to avoid terminology that is offensive or inappropriate.
Sightsavers refers to disability using people-first language, such as ‘people with disabilities’ or ‘people with visual impairments’. Use the term ‘people with disabilities’, rather than ‘persons with disabilities’, unless it’s part of a title (such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) or where it’s the accepted norm for a specific professional audience.
For full information on how Sightsavers writes about blindness, visual impairment and disability, see our guide to disability and inclusion language.Read the full guide