Editorial Style

Copy | Headlines | Captions | Audience Variation | Mizzou News | Tips & Techniques | ADA Guidelines

Mizzou follows two style guides:

If a discrepancy exists between the two styles, the MU Style Guide takes precedence.

In some fields, writers and editors might also follow discipline-specific style guides. Regardless of the field, in communications produced by university information specialists for general audiences, the MU Style Guide and the Associated Press Stylebook take precedence over academic style guides such as the MLA Style Manual.

Copy Tone

Mizzou sits poised among dynamic backgrounds to glean insight and inspiration. Embracing our differences to tap in to newer, better ideas, formulas, outcomes. To accomplish the unimaginable. The tone of both headlines and body copy should reflect this ambitious, curious and dedicated approach to hard work and collaboration. Our words should open minds to new ideas and inspire and motivate our audience to think and act for the greater good.


Headlines are the best, and maybe only, opportunity to grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to keep reading. So, they need to be quick, clear and intriguing. Don’t try and say everything or you’ll confuse (then lose) your audience. Keep headlines focused, yet creative.

The term “Show me” invites readers in, connects with Missourians living in the Show Me state, and creates a platform for confident and attention-grabbing statements. In addition to being a bold way to kick-off a headline, it can also be a powerful way to punctuate one.

Don’t just talk about changing the world. Show me.

From the heart of the Bootheel to the depths of the Milky Way

Show me the forest for what it treats

Show me how to turn visions into ventures


Clear, concise captions can pull curious readers further into the page while ensuring that those merely skimming the page can garner the most important information.

How to write good captions

  • Generate interest and intrigue. Engage readers.
  • Add details that aren’t in the accompanying story.
  • Use active verbs and energetic language.
  • For every photograph, provide a caption with specific information, if available. Captions accompanying generic or decorative photographs, such as pictures of campus icons, can provide background information or a bit of MU history.
  • Be honest and accurate. If using an old photo, identify the date. If using a photo for illustrative rather than documentary purposes, make that clear in your caption.
  • Use “from left” rather than “from left to right” when identifying multiple people or things.
  • Don’t editorialize. Avoid subjective adjectives. Let your readers decide whether someone or something is beautiful, happy troubled, etc.
  • Because readers know you are referring to the photograph, omit phrases such “is shown” or “pictured above.”
  • Write complete sentences that fill the width of the photo. Try to use present tense, but use past tense to refer to events that preceded the taking of the photo or that are not pictured in the photo.
  • Don’t point out the obvious, such as gestures or colors, except when writing alternative text to accompany photos online. Alternative text can be detected by a screen reader and provide photo information to users who are visually impaired. More about accessibility.
  • Before publishing the photos online or in print, double-check the photos and captions for accuracy and consistency.

Audience Variations

Although our brand voice must stay consistent, we need to allow for flexibility when speaking to different audiences. This is where our tone words are helpful when crafting copy. It is important to think about your audience and adjust the tone words accordingly—emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain words as needed to best communicate with your audience.

Tone Words: Honest, Caring, Courageous, Enterprising, Curious, Committed, Ambitious

For example, when writing for an undergraduate audience, the tone and voice should convey our CURIOUS and AMBITIOUS nature. When speaking to a university donor or alumni, the tone and voice should reflect our HONEST, CARING, and ENTERPRISING side.

Undergrad Example

Imagine diving into undergraduate research instead of just reading about it. Reporting on a breaking news story from the only university-owned commercial television station. Or taking the lead in running a successful local business all while you’re still in school.

General Public

Hands on and Miles Ahead
Between academia and a career path lies the Missouri Method—a strategic, learn-by-doing approach that prepares students for their career.

Donor or Alumni Example

When agroforestry and biochemistry meet head-on, a nuisance can become a lifesaver. Researchers at Mizzou found that Red Cedar trees (an invasive species) contain powerful compounds that can combat skin cancer and “superbug” bacteria.

ADA Guidelines

Statement on Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Guidelines

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers programs, activities and services of public entities, including public universities. The ADA protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability. The law also requires public entities to inform persons with disabilities of their ADA rights.

Student recruitment materials, job notices and other print and online publications that encourage people to write to or call the university must include one of the following notices.

ADA statement

Long version
The University of Missouri complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. If you have a disability and need accommodations in connection with [describe event or process, such as the job application process], please notify us at [address or telephone number] as soon as possible so that necessary arrangements can be made. TTY users: Please call through Relay Missouri at 1-800-735-2966.

Short version
For ADA accommodations, contact [name] at [address/telephone/e-mail].