Our philosophy: “Think of the reader first.”
Boise State stories should be accessible, clear and meaningful for our audience – the general public, not exclusively academics. We want people to read our stories, take away useful information and feel a connection to the university. Make it easy for them.
We use Associated Press style (the style most news organizations use) with some exceptions noted in this guide.
This writing guide is a living, evolving document. Contact Anna Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and suggestions.
Abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms
- Avoid using them whenever possible.
- Exceptions: In some cases (CEO, GPA, NASA, U.S., NAACP, STEM, LGBTQIA+) abbreviations are more well known than their long form and are fine to use. Noting time zones as abbreviations is also acceptable.
- Avoid abbreviations in parentheses after a first reference.
- Never use an abbreviation in a headline.
- Never start a sentence with an abbreviation.
- Use it. Think: subject plus strong verb for all of your sentences.
- Example: The law was passed (passive) vs. The Idaho Legislature passed the law (active).
- Example: He was nominated for the board by Idaho Power (passive) vs. Idaho Power nominated him for the board (active).
Quoting people in stories
- Quotes must earn their real estate. They should illustrate a compelling point or reveal a source’s voice or character. Think of them as a story’s “seasonings.”
- Just because a source says something doesn’t mean you have to include it – or include it in its entirety – in your story. Be critical. Ask yourself if a quote is adding value to your story.
- Don’t use a quote to convey information you can paraphrase in a sentence or two.
- Don’t use a quote to reiterate what you’ve written in the previous paragraph or elsewhere in the story.
- When attributing a quote, use subject plus verb construction. “Hello,” Jane said, rather than “Hello,” said Jane. The exception is when you’re including a job title, or more information about Jane. “Hello,” said Jane, the first woman to swim across the lake.
- Strive for brevity and clarity in your writing. This is not “dumbing down” your writing. It’s making it more likely that someone will read your story. What the Associated Press said in 1911 remains true today: “Good style favors short words, short sentences, short paragraphs, short stories.”
- Avoid unnecessary words. For example: Don’t write “He will be attending the conference” when you can write “He will attend the conference.” Don’t use words like “utilize” when “use” will do. Don’t write “in order to” when you can write “to.”
- As with quotes, look at your stories critically. Cut information that readers don’t need to know.
- As campus writers, we are constantly learning about new, often complicated subjects. We have to understand them well enough to translate them into written form accessible to most readers. This isn’t easy…
- If you don’t understand something a source says, ask them to explain it again, or explain it in a different way. Don’t apologize. It’s our responsibility.
- On sharing stories with sources before we publish them: The university writers and sources are partners in telling Boise State stories. It’s okay to share your stories with campus sources to check for accuracy. In rare cases, we share stories with sources outside the university before we publish them. Consult with your editor on a case-by-case basis.
- Note: This practice differs from journalism where reporters might call sources to check facts or quotes, but do not send stories to sources before publication.
- Stories should have more than one source (some alternative presentation stories: Q&As, photos with long captions, may be exceptions). If you’re writing a profile, interview someone who knows the person you’re writing about. Look for quotes that go beyond praise and cliché language and that share something meaningful about your subject.
- If you’re writing a story about a Boise State project that benefits the community or has implications for the community, interview someone in the community. Find out what the work at Boise State means beyond campus.
- If you quote a student in a story, include their hometown, year and major.