Editorial voice is the tone and style by which our messages are communicated. It is what differentiates a relatable and impactful message from just another page of words. The Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) has a focus and a mission for helping those in and around our community and that passion should be felt through the editorial voice we use in each and every communication we release.
CCIU communications should exhibit integrity, commitment and a genuine desire to connect with our audience. We seek to relate what we do into how it beneficially impacts our audience. We seek not to simply list features but to bring those features to life with compelling and emotionally driven support. We are leaders, but our voice is one speaking peer to peer.
To help ensure the CCIU voice is heard, review the tips and guidelines provided in the following pages of this section.
Effective Communication Tips
Nine steps to effective communication
1. Plan what you want to say before you commit your thoughts to paper.
Sounds simple. Yet, how many times have you read something and thought, “What are they saying?” Chances are “they” didn’t stop and ﬁgure out what it was they wanted to say before attempting to put it into words.
To ﬁgure out what you want to say, ask yourself two questions:
- “What do I want the audience to know?”
- “What do I want them to do with the information?”
2. Know your audience.
Target your message to your audience. Is it going to parents, to students, to coworkers, or to all three? Can you use the same message for all three groups? Probably not. Do you have to tailor the message for each group? Most likely. Different audiences require different messages. The good news is that you can use a variation on your original theme.
3. Know what your audience wants and write to that.
Don’t tell them what YOU want. They don’t care. For example:
You want parents to come to an open house. Honestly, they don’t want to come, and deep down inside you know they don’t want to come. So, don’t tell them to come to your open house. Tell them where they can learn how to get reduced college tuition for their children, where they can get cool gifts, and when free stuff will be handed out. And by the way, it will be at the open house.
4. Tell your audience what to do with the information.
So they’ve gotten the information, now what? Tell them what they need to do with it - register, volunteer, pass it on, use it to create better publications, whatever - just let them know what it is they are to do now that they have the information.
5. Keep it simple. Keep it short.
The average American is exposed to 3,000 messages a day (that includes paid advertising, e-mails, letters, phone calls and general conversations). So keep your messages short and simple. Don’t get weighted down in educational jargon, acronyms or overly detailed explanations. Don’t use lengthy sentences when short, pithy ones will do. Don’t use qualiﬁers. You do not have to write 500 words. Get straight to the point.
Examples of qualiﬁers to avoid:
- In most instances
- It is likely
- In general
6. Write | Edit | Rewrite
Once and done doesn’t work for even the best of writers. Write it. Read it. Rewrite it. Reread it.
7. Let others read your work.
Before you send a document off to an unsuspecting public, give it to others to read (not to proof – we’ll get to that later), preferably to those who are unfamiliar with the subject matter. The human brain automatically ﬁlls in gaps in information if it has the data available to do so. Therefore, someone who is very familiar with the topic on which you are writing is not a good judge of its clarity. This is the one time when the more clueless, the better, applies. Someone who is clueless will not be able to ﬁll in the gaps and will be much more helpful in determining whether or not your message is clear.
After they’ve read it – quiz them.
- Ask them to summarize (in their own words) what they just read. Don’t ask if they understood what they read because they may only think they understood and mistakenly tell you “yes,” when they should be telling you: “I haven’t got a clue.”
- Ask what action they need to take now that they have read the document. Revise accordingly.
Always proofread your work. After you have proofread your work, proofread it again. Then give it to someone else to proofread. Always have at least one other person proof your work as you will tend to read what you think you wrote, whether or not that is what actually appears on the printed page. If it is a lengthy document, have several people proofread the document, and give them plenty of time to do so. Do not hand someone a critical document at 4:55 p.m. on Friday and ask for it to be proofed before they leave for the weekend. After you have made the necessary corrections. Proofread again. Click here [Link to 6.4] for more details on how to proofread.
9. Keep a reference guide handy.
No matter how good a writer you are, there will always be times when you need to look up a rule – if only to say “I told you so.” Remember, you don’t have to know all the answers, but you should know where to ﬁnd them.
The Chester County Intermediate Unit uses the Associated Press Stylebook and the Associated Press Guide to Punctuation as its reference guides. Copies of both of these publications may be obtained from the Communications Division.
While the AP Stylebook is the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s (CCIU) main reference guide, below please find CCIU-specific style guidelines that may or may not be covered by the Associated Press.
1. The Chester County Intermediate Unit’s name
Capitalize intermediate unit when it appears in our organization’s full name (or the full name of any one of the Commonwealth’s 29 intermediate units). Capitalize the initials CCIU and IU when referring to the Chester County Intermediate Unit. But, use lower case for the words “intermediate unit” when referring to the Chester County Intermediate Unit as simply “the intermediate unit.” These rules apply to the names of schools and school districts as well.
- Chester County Intermediate Unit
- intermediate unit
In all correspondence to an external audience, the first mention of the Chester County Intermediate Unit is to be its full name with the initials CCIU in parentheses behind the name. After which, you may refer to the Chester County Intermediate Unit as CCIU, IU or intermediate unit.
The Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) is a regional educational service agency. The CCIU’s use of research-based practices in teaching and learning enhances the intermediate unit’s capacity to support the diverse educational needs of learners.
2. Program | Department names
Program and department names are tricky. Capitalize program names when they are unique to the intermediate unit. However, commonly known and generic terms for departments or programs that describe the function are not capitalized. The main objective here is to be consistent.
Examples to help you figure it out:
The Career, Technical and Customized Education division oversees vocational education and driver education.
The School-to-Careers program provides career counseling for high school students.
At the Technical College High School, students may study automotive technology, culinary arts, health care and animal science.
The Early Childhood Care and Education program prepares students for a career as a daycare provider or as a preschool teacher.
3. Job Titles
Job titles are not proper nouns. Therefore, they are not capitalized. The exception to this rule is when the job title is also a formal title and immediately precedes a person’s name.
Chairman Jane Doe announced today…
Jane Doe, chairman of the Board of Directors, announced today…
4. Board of Directors
The CCIU has made the conscious decision to use capitalization when referring to its board of directors in a sign of respect. Therefore, when referring specifically to the CCIU’s board utilize initial cap as shown below.
The CCIU Board of Directors met on Wednesday to review…
CCIU division directors met with the Board to discuss…
Use acronyms sparingly. Do not use an acronym for a two-word name or title. Don’t use acronyms that are easily confused with other program names.
Never assume that your reader knows an acronym’s full meaning. Always spell out the title or phrase the first time it appears in a communication and place the acronym in parentheses immediately following the phrase.
A few CCIU Acronyms:
Program/School Acronym/Abbreviated name
CCIU Learning Center LC
The Child & Career Development Center CCDC
Technical College High School TCHS
Brandywine Virtual Academy BVA
Practical Nursing Program PNP
Avoid creating new acronyms. If the name is too long to actually use on a regular basis, find another name.
Proofreading is one of, if not the most important step in the development of a written communication. A misuse of a word or an unfortunate typo can completely change a viewer’s takeaway of the message or the overall perception of the represented organization or program. As such, steps should be taken to ensure appropriate time and resources are applied to proofing any and all communication. In the Communications division, all materials are reviewed by three separate proofreaders, none of which are the original writer/designer.
The following is a checklist of areas to review when proofreading a document:
- Review sentences for consistent verb tense, subject-verb agreement, fragments and run-ons
- Review words for appropriate usage, spelling and capitalization
- Review punctuation including appropriate use of commas, apostrophes and quotation marks (ensure quotations have quotation marks at the start and end of the quoted section)
- Ensure use of citations and references as appropriate and within a consistent format
- Ensure correct logos are being utilized
- Ensure consistency in program names (spelling, capitalization) and associated acronyms (never introduce an acronym without its full name being noted first)
- Ensure all materials include the required equal opportunity statement
- Test all websites, emails, QR codes and phone numbers to ensure accuracy
- Review consistency in font size and color across all headlines, subheads and copy blocks
- Ensure all photos used have the appropriate releases/licensing rights available
- Double-check any dates and times listed to ensure accuracy
- Double-check that the calendar date and the day of the week associated with the calendar date are correct
- Double-check the spelling of people’s names and formal titles
Be sure to have proofreaders review the document as many times as needed to get to a clean document.
Email has become an integrated part of our personal and business lives but often times its role in establishing a professional perception is overlooked. While email enables users to be brief, friendlier and more responsive, the approach to writing an email should be similar to that of writing a professional letter. The following email etiquette rules, as pulled from career coach Barbara Pachter’s book The Essentials of Business Etiquette, help serve as a framework we all should follow:
1. Utilize a clear, direct subject line.
“People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line,” Pachter says. “Choose one that lets readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues.” Keep it brief. Examples of a good subject line include “Meeting date changed,” “Quick question about your presentation,” or “Suggestions for the proposal.”
2. Use a professional email address.
This may seem obvious, but when reviewing emails on your phone it is all too easy to send a professional email from your personal email account. Always double-check your sending email address before hitting send.
3. Think twice before hitting “reply all.”
Does everyone on the email really need to see your reply of “Thank you?” Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email, Pachter says.
4. Use professional salutations.
While email allows you to write in a more conversational tone, don’t use everyday expressions like “Hey,” “Hi folks,” or “Yo.” Use “Hi” or “Hello” instead. Pachter also advises against shortening anyone’s name. Say “Hi Michael,” unless you’re certain he prefers to be called “Mike.”
5. Use exclamation points sparingly.
If you choose to use an exclamation point, use only one to convey excitement, Pachter says. “People sometimes get carried away and put a number of exclamation points at the end of their sentences. The result can appear too emotional or immature,” she writes.
6. Be cautious with humor.
The tone or facial expression that helps to sell a humorous phrase is not available in an email. In the professional setting, it is better to leave humor out of emails unless you know the recipient well. Pachter says: “Something perceived as funny when spoken may come across very differently when written. When in doubt, leave it out.”
7. Know that people from different cultures speak and write differently.
As noted above with humor, written form does not allow for clear expression, and miscommunication can easily occur because of cultural differences. Pachter suggests as a good reference that high-context cultures (Japanese, Arab or Chinese) want to get to know you before doing business with you. Therefore, it may be common for community members from these countries to be more personal in their writings. On the other hand, people from low-context cultures (German, American or Scandinavian) prefer to get to the point very quickly.
8. Reply to your emails – even if the email wasn’t intended for you.
It’s difficult to reply to every email message ever sent to you, but you should try to, Pachter says. You may need time to collect information for a full response, but just letting the sender know that you received the message and will be working to gather the information will put the sender at ease and will position you as very responsive. This pertains as well to emails accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply.
9. Proofread every message.
Mistakes can be easily made, especially when we’re rushed or typing a response on our smartphones, but those mistakes won’t go unnoticed by the recipients of your email. “And, depending on the recipient, you may be judged for making them,” Pachter says. Don’t rely on spell-check and be sure to read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.
10. Take some time before responding to an emotionally-charged email.
It can be all too easy to get wrapped up in the emotions created by certain emails, but as previously noted tone and intent can be lost in translation in a written communication. Take time to really read the email and try and understand the sender’s perspective. It is always best to reply in a more professional tone, recognizing the sender’s potential emotions and indicating a desire to come to a mutual agreement. In some cases, it may be best to skip email and just pick up the phone. Many angry email chains could have been resolved with just a quick phone call where each party’s perspective is more easily heard and understood.
11. Add the email address last.
“You don’t want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proofing the message,” Pachter says. “Even when you are replying to a message, it’s a good precaution to delete the recipient’s address and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.”
12. Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient.
Pachter says to pay careful attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line. “It’s easy to select the wrong name, which can be embarrassing to you and to the person who receives the email by mistake.”
All Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) employees are ambassadors for the CCIU and should communicate a single, shared message of the IU and its purpose. While the CCIU Mission Statement is the guiding force behind the CCIU’s identity, there are other less formal statements that describe the IU. These descriptions should be included, as appropriate, in all formal communications and publications.
CCIU tag line
This briefly explains who we are. Use it when space/time is extremely limited, and in conjunction with the CCIU logo.
An educational service agency
CCIU short, one-sentence description
This briefly explains who we are and what we do. Use when space/time is limited.
The Chester County Intermediate Unit is an educational service agency that exists to provide quality, cost-effective services to the community and its residents.
CCIU brief description
This briefly explains who we are, what we do and how we do it. Use when space/time permits.
The Chester County Intermediate Unit is an educational service agency that exists to provide quality, cost-effective services to the community and its residents through partnerships with local school districts, institutions of higher education, government agencies and community agencies.
This expands on who we are, what we do, how we do it, and the value our services provide. Use as a closing to all press releases and when space/time permits.
The Chester County Intermediate Unit is an educational service agency that exists to provide quality, cost-effective services to the community and its residents. The Chester County Intermediate Unit administers instructional, enrichment and administrative programs and services to Chester County’s 12 public school districts and to over 45 private and parochial schools in the county. These programs include instructional, remedial and enrichment services for regular and special education students. Other IU services support teachers, school administrators and school directors. The diversity of CCIU programs enable IU staff to interact with school district personnel at all levels and to maintain a cohesive educational network throughout Chester County.
Boilerplates also exist for the Technical College High School (TCHS) and the Practical Nursing Program (PNP).
About the Technical College High School: The Technical College High (TCHS) is a public career and technical education high school operated by the Chester County Intermediate Unit. The student-centered approach at TCHS offers students a relevant career-focused education that allows them to develop their interests and aptitudes into futures. Hands-on career exploration using state-of-the-art methods and technology is guided by highly qualified instructors with years of industry experience. Students connect at TCHS, building community and opportunity in relationships with instructors, administrators, colleges and industry partners in STEM fields, the arts and skilled trades. Interested students can learn more and apply online at www.technicalcollegehighschool.org.
About TCHS Brandywine Campus
The Technical College High (TCHS) Brandywine Campus is a public career and technical education high school operated by the Chester County Intermediate Unit. The student-centered approach at TCHS offers students a relevant career-focused education that allows them to develop their interests and aptitudes into futures. Hands-on career exploration using state-of-the-art methods and technology is guided by highly qualified instructors with years of industry experience. Students connect at TCHS, building community and opportunity in relationships with instructors, administrators, colleges and industry partners in STEM fields, the arts and skilled trades. TCHS Brandywine Campus serves students residing in the Coatesville Area, Downingtown Area, and West Chester Area school districts. Interested students can learn more and apply online at www.tchsbrandywine.org.
About TCHS Pennock’s Bridge Campus
The Technical College High (TCHS) Pennock’s Bridge Campus is a public career and technical education high school operated by the Chester County Intermediate Unit. The student-centered approach at TCHS offers students a relevant career-focused education that allows them to develop their interests and aptitudes into futures. Hands-on career exploration using state-of-the-art methods and technology is guided by highly qualified instructors with years of industry experience. Students connect at TCHS, building community and opportunity in relationships with instructors, administrators, colleges and industry partners in STEM fields, the arts and skilled trades. TCHS Pennock’s Bridge Campus serves students residing in Avon Grove, Kennett Consolidated, Octorara Area, Oxford Area and Unionville-Chadds Ford school districts. Interested students can learn more and apply online at www.tchspennocks.org.
About TCHS Pickering Campus
The Technical College High (TCHS) Pickering Campus is a public career and technical education high school operated by the Chester County Intermediate Unit. The student-centered approach at TCHS offers students a relevant career-focused education that allows them to develop their interests and aptitudes into futures. Hands-on career exploration using state-of-the-art methods and technology is guided by highly qualified instructors with years of industry experience. Students connect at TCHS, building community and opportunity in relationships with instructors, administrators, colleges and industry partners in STEM fields, the arts and skilled trades. TCHS Pickering Campus serves students residing in Great Valley, Owen J. Roberts, Phoenixville Area and Tredyffrin-Easttown school districts. Interested students can learn more and apply online at www.tchspickering.org.
About Chester County Intermediate Unit Practical Nursing Program
The Chester County Intermediate Unit Practical Nursing Program (PNP) is a fully accredited post-secondary program that prepares students to pass the NCLEX-PN, providing fast entry into the nursing profession and opportunity for future growth and education. PNP is focused on the individual, offering flexible full and part-time scheduling for small classes taught by experienced nurses. Over 700 hours of hands-on experience in clinical rotations prepare students for a wide variety of positions in a high-demand profession. To learn more, visit www.chestercountynursing.org or call 484-593-5950.
When writing about the CCIU and its schools and programs, please be cognizant of associated Legal requirements.