Voice is the particular way in which a person—or organization—uses language. Tone is the attitude reflected in the words. Taken together, the two communicate as much as the content that’s expressed.
Finding Mason’s Voice
To sense the kind of language—the tone and voice—that is right for Mason, consider a few salient points about our identity and aspirations:
- First, this is a great university with a mission that matters. We are driven to serve and are proud to have a substantial positive impact on our students and community.
- Second, we are riding a wave of momentum. We are pursuing ambitious plans, charting our own course of progress. By every measure, Mason is on the ascent.
How should a university like this sound? For a start…
Thinking about the distinctive personality of the Mason community suggests other descriptors worth adding:
To understand the Mason Voice, combine all these qualities and inject a motive: the need to command attention.
At Mason, it is not enough for our communications to be clear and well crafted. We must reach out to the world and achieve a new level of awareness of our university and its work. This means finding ways to push our message beyond the expected, to stand out, and add an edge.
The Voice in Use
These are the ways we speak to command attention:
We make big claims, state important truths, and ask provocative questions.
(“You measure a university’s success by how many people it educates, not how many it turns away.”)
We speak in aspirational terms, declaring our views on forging a better future.
(“A great university is a machine of progress.” “33,000 dreams coming true.”)
We employ occasional overstatement, not to mislead, but to make valid points in a striking way.
(“Meet the whole world on one campus.”)
We address our audience directly, urging, inviting, suggesting, and inquiring.
(“Let’s solve problems that matter.” “Come create your future.”)
We make our case in plain, clear, and energetic language.
(“Access is everything.” “At Mason, we take pride in results.”)
Together, these guidelines form an approach for engaging our audience at the point of first impression. Of course, once we’ve accomplished this, we need to ground our claims in substance, supplying facts, examples, and explanation. For guidelines on how to do so, see the Proof Points section.
For more examples of Mason’s Voice, see the Headlines section.
Hitting the Right Note
Notice that the adjectives defining the Mason Voice do not include “modest.” Yes, at Mason we exist to serve our students and community, and no, we are not interested in gaining prestige if that means becoming elite or exclusive. This does not make us humble, it makes us proud to stand apart.
It is true that if we push too far in the direction of “bold” or “confident,” it’s possible we could turn people off. But the greater danger is that we play it safe and go unheard. Let’s not make that mistake.