Brand Voice

All site copy—everything from high level branding statements to UI and instructional text— should embody the following characteristics:


As a widely recognized leader in arts education, we have a mature and nuanced grasp of contemporary media’s vast and ever-evolving landscape.


We are open and inviting to all prospective students regardless of their skill level. Anyone with a desire to develop his or her creative talent should feel welcome to enroll.


We possess an authoritative understanding of what it takes to give students the tools they need to succeed in today’s creative industries, and it shows in our confident—yet never boastful—communications.

Copy Tone

Copy should be short, to-the-point, and exciting. As an art and design institution, it’s important that the work of our students and alumni speak for us. We want to attract creative students and our best asset is the wealth of amazing work they create every day. Copy should accentuate and support our visual collateral, as opposed to steal attention from it.

In copy that’s intended for a specific audience (e.g. prospective students or parents), we want to speak to them directly as opposed to referring to them in third person. We are a dynamic arts learning institution and should encourage action with our language.

Examples of Brand Voice & Tone

We use the power of rhetoric to make bold statements, rather than splashy aesthetics like exclamation points or ALL CAPS.

On brand voice:

The time is now. Reach your artistic potential.

Off brand voice:

The time is NOW. Reach your artistic potential!!!

Use an active voice that speaks directly to your audience.

You will learn the fundamentals of light, color, and form.

Students will gain an understanding of the fundamentals of light, color, and form.

However, in some cases it may be appropriate to use third person to avoid the redundancy of “you” throughout a page. Also, in certain instances we may be speaking to an audience that is broader than just a single demographic; we may be simultaneously addressing prospective students, parents, alumni, press, or others. It’s fine to leverage third person in these cases.

All students have access to our studio facilities.

Incomplete sentences are fine when used with appropriate measure for emotional effect.

At the Academy of Art University, we strive to help you reach your creative potential. Join us.

Make art. Make friends. Make a career.

Style & Grammar

Copy should generally be written in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style. Most importantly, copy should be crisp, minimalist, and conversational. The sections below offer guidance on the most common style and grammar issues.

Referencing the Academy of Art University

In most cases, refer to the school in its proper form—Academy of Art University. You may also use the article “the” ahead of the school’s name, but it should not be capitalized.

We offer classes for students at all skill levels at the Academy of Art University.

It’s fine to refer to the institution in shorthand forms—the Academy (note capitalization) or AAU—to avoid self-referential redundancy in longer blocks of text.

Your experiences at the Academy last a lifetime.

We invite you to learn more about life at AAU.

Any other shorthand forms, including Art U, are verboten.

Referencing Various Programs, Degrees, and Positions

Capitalize specific departments, programs, and courses—but do not capitalize their generalized counterparts.

The Academy of Art University’s School of Fine Art includes courses on painting, sculpture, and jewelry design.

The Academy of Art University’s school of fine art includes courses on Painting, Sculpture, and Jewelry Design.

Also note in the above that “School” is capitalized when referencing a specific department— the School of Fine Art.

Capitalize specific courses.

Start by taking Introduction to Storyboarding.

Note the shift to general subject matter

You should take an introduction to storyboarding class.

Capitalize specific degrees.

Pursue an MFA in Graphic Design.

Professional titles are only capitalized when preceding an individual’s name.

I had lunch with Professor Jones of the Animation department and one of his research assistants.

Referencing Creative Works

Titles of paintings, sculptures, photographs, statues, drawings, books, movies, short films, TV series, newspapers, magazines, and albums are italicized.

The marble sculpture Clouds of War was created by a third year student.

I just read The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse.

The Simpsons is the longest running scripted television show of all time.

Some say Rubber Soul is the Beatles’ best album.

I subscribe to both The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Song titles and titles of magazine or journal articles are in quotations.

“Stairway to Heaven” appears on the album Led Zeppelin IV.

I learned a lot from reading “How to Grow Your Own Organic Garden” in this month’s Better Homes & Garden.

Text Links

Clickable text links within copy blocks should convey topical destination. Avoid using generic terms like “Click here” as link copy or making entire sentences clickable.

Learn more about our School of Fine Art.

Click here to learn more about our School of Fine Art.

However, stand-alone text links (i.e. not within a paragraph) can be entirely clickable.

Your name: [ ]
Your high school: [ ]
Edit your personal information

Your name: [ ]
Your high school: [ ]
Edit your personal information


Headlines and subheads should be title case unless they are full sentences, in which case they follow regular sentence standards, including punctuation.

The following words are not capitalized in headlines and subheads, unless they are the first word of the headline/subhead:

a, at, in, is, from, the, to, or, with

How to Overcome Creative Blocks with a Little Help from Science

Ampersands may be used in headlines to conserve space.

Men’s & Women’s Soccer Advance to Playoffs

Call-to-Action (CTA) Button Copy

CTA’s are action-oriented phrases that always start with a verb.

Apply Today

Learn More About Housing

CTA’s follow headline title case and ampersand rules (see above).

See More News & Events

Where space allows and it feels on brand, it’s fine to imbue CTA’s with appropriate marketing tone.

Explore San Francisco

Discover Your Passion

Serial commas

Always use serial commas, except in headlines that use ampersands.

She dedicated her art award to her parents, Professor Smith, and God.

She dedicated her art award to her parents, Professor Smith and God.

Correct use of an ampersand in a headline:

Exhibition to Display Work from Fine Art, Illustration & Graphic Design Students

Time of day

When referring to a time of day, always use lower-case abbreviations of ante-meridian (a.m.) and post-meridian (p.m.) and only include minutes when necessary.

Class starts at 10 a.m.

The seminar runs from 9 a.m.–10:30 a.m.

Class starts at 10:00 A.M.

Class starts at 10am.


When using numbers in copy, always spell out numbers one through nine, and use the numeric form of numbers 10 and higher (unless the number starts a sentence or is a unit of measurement).

We offer eight design courses this semester.

We offer 12 design courses this semester.

Twelve design courses are offered this semester.

We offer 8 design courses this semester.

12 design courses are offered this semester.

Use numerical whole numbers when followed by “thousand,” “hundred thousand,” “million,” “billion,” etc.

There are about 320 million U.S. citizens.

There are about 320,000,000 U.S. citizens.

For phone numbers, always use dashes—as opposed to dots—to present Academy phone numbers.



Units of Measurement

Typically, units of measurement will be spelled out. The exceptions are when the abridged form of a unit of measurement is the more colloquial term, such as “amp” (ampere) or “MHz” (megahertz).

When referencing specific measurements of inches or feet, use their symbols. Spell out non-specific lengths of measurement.

The workstation features a 10” power saw and 4’ metal casting machine.

You may use more than 100 feet of material.

Em dashes

The em dash—used to separate two disparate but related thoughts within the same sentence—should be one long dash connecting two words with no spacing on either side.

Understanding the creative process is a journey—one that hopefully never ends.

Understanding the creative process is a journey — one that hopefully never ends.

Understanding the creative process is a journey - one that hopefully never ends.

Understanding the creative process is a journey -- one that hopefully never ends.

En dashes

There should be no spaces around en dashes when they’re used to denote a range of time.

Guest speakers take the stage every day between 4 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

The event takes place between May 2–June 12.


Ellipses are always represented as three consecutive periods with no spacing between them.

A world of creativity awaits…

A world of creativity awaits. . .

Quote Punctuation

Quotations and apostrophes should be “smart” and not "straight" wherever possible

What’s your passion?

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