KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Who are you talking to? Are they developers who just want the specs? Or analysts who want business benefits? Are they CIOs who have limited time between meetings? Or a future Red Hatter who wants to understand our culture? Figure out who you are writing for before you begin.

THE MOST IMPORTANT IDEA GOES FIRST

What’s the one thing you want the reader to know? Write that first. Never assume they’ll keep reading. When was the last time you read every word on a web page or piece of collateral?

NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE HEADLINE

Spend the most time there.

WRITE LIKE A DESIGNER

Subheads, bullets, short paragraphs. Organize your copy well, and the reader might take the time to read it.

BIG IDEAS, SMALL WORDS

The most powerful ideas don’t need big words to explain them.

SHORT SENTENCES SHOW CONFIDENCE

Short sentences are powerful. They stand out in a paragraph. They draw attention to one simple thought.

CHANGE PACE

Too much of anything can be tiring. Control the pace by varying sentence structure and length. Make the copy sound natural and active.

When writing about technology, answer these four questions:

1. WHAT CUSTOMER PROBLEMS DOES IT SOLVE?

2. HOW DOES IT SOLVE THEM?

3. HOW IS IT BETTER THAN THE ALTERNATIVES?

4. WHERE DO I GO TO LEARN MORE?

KNOW YOUR SUBJECT MATTER

Check your facts. Remember, the fastest way to harm the Red Hat brand is by being misleading, incorrect, or irrelevant. Always cite any facts you use.

AVOID USING SEMICOLONS OR EXCLAMATION POINTS

Yes, they do have their purpose; semicolons, however, usually mean your sentence is too long and complex. And nothing says cheap (Everything must go!) like an exclamation point!

BREAK THE RULES

Grammar rules can be broken ONLY if the reader knows you did it on purpose.

Your goal is a natural, comfortable voice. Sometimes that means starting a sentence with “and” or “because.” But when the reader thinks you’ve made a mistake, you’ve made a mistake.

WRITE POETRY, NOT A NOVEL

Don’t make a speech; start a conversation. It only takes a paragraph for a reader to know if the writer is talking to them or over them.

TOP FIVE RED HAT WRITING MISTAKES:

1. ACRONYM ABUSE
Spell out acronyms and abbreviations so everyone understands what you mean.

2. JARGON, SLANG, AND METAPHORS
Shadowman would never use bizspeak or clichés. You shouldn’t either.

3. YADA, YADA, YADA
Get to the point.

4. FOCUSING ON US, NOT THEM
With the exception of product names, there’s no good reason to say “Red Hat” more than once in any given paragraph. Less often if possible.

5. CAPITALIZING TOO MUCH STUFF
Using all uppercase is only for headlines. Use sentence case everywhere else. Only capitalize proper nouns.

Things Shadowman would never* say

Of course, Shadowman would not condone censorship, but he does require that Red Hat communications be smart, clear, unique—never cliché.

Many companies rely on the language of business marketing to convince people to buy stuff. Red Hat does not. This is because:

• Professional language can deceive or alienate the uninformed.

• We distrust those who won’t level with us.

• None of your friends talk this way. (And hopefully you listen to your friends.)

• It doesn’t reflect who Red Hat is.

Read the full list of things Shadowman would never say

*NEVER 
And by never*, we mean almost never, sparingly, or with great care. 

IDIOMS, SLANG, AND NARROW METAPHOR

Use examples and straightforward language, because metaphor won’t always be understood, and using this kind of language greatly increases the cost of translation.

Read our Messaging Index

View our corporate style guide

THIS:
I’ll email you on Tuesday, Oct 5 with more details.

NOT THIS:
Let’s touch base soon.

Community technology is fast-moving and innovative, and may not be ready for enterprise deployments.

Community technology is on the bleeding edge.

Our operating system, winner of the Best OS Award (citation)…

Our best-in-breed operating system…

WEASEL WORDS

It doesn’t add anything to the sentence, except a sense of doubt. Leave it out, unless Legal requires it to avoid a claim or guarantee.

Read our Messaging Index

View our corporate style guide

THIS:
Red Hat Enterprise Linux works in traditional, virtual, or cloud infrastructure.

NOT THIS:
Red Hat Enterprise Linux was designed to work in traditional, virtual, or cloud infrastructure.

Our storage solutions help your business better use and reuse big data.

Our storage solutions intend to bring big data to your business.

BUSINESS-SPEAK OR SLANG

These words and phrases are overused and vague, aren’t understood by global audiences, and increase the cost of translation. Say what you really mean instead. And only use “mission” if you are talking about NASA.

Read our Messaging Index

View our corporate style guide

THIS:
Our solutions are flexible, extensive, and ready for the future.

NOT THIS:
Our solutions are future proof.

Customers attend our training courses to…

Customers can leverage the training we offer to…

Prospects can take the skills test to determine…

Prospects can utilize the skills test to determine…

For critical deployments…

For mission-critical deployments…

“THE” BEFORE A PRODUCT NAME

“The” is unnecessary and a little awkward.

THIS:
Red Hat Enterprise Linux…

NOT THIS:
The Red Hat Enterprise Linux…

Red Hat JBoss A-MQ is based on an Apache project…

The Red Hat JBoss A-MQ product is based on an Apache project…

JBOSS BY ITSELF

Causes product confusion because many products belong to the JBoss family. Causes brand confusion (JBoss community vs. Red Hat the company).

When talking about the company, always use “Red Hat.” When talking about products, use full names.

THIS:
This app server from Red Hat…

NOT THIS:
This app server from JBoss…

You should buy some Red Hat JBoss Middleware solutions.

You should buy some JBoss.

PRODUCT ACRONYMS

We want to connect “Red Hat” to our technologies. Prospects will not know what an acronym stands for, and it could cause product confusion. (For example, RHS could be many things: satellite, storage, services, support…)

Follow the Brand rules for product naming—spell it out, and use approved abbreviations only when necessary.

Read our Messaging Index

View our corporate style guide

THIS:
Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a popular operating system…

NOT THIS:
RHEL is a popular Linux operating system…

Customers looking to implement big data should consider Red Hat Storage.

Customers looking to implement big data should consider RHS.

WRITING DIGITAL CONTENT

In the digital world, you have only a few seconds to capture your audience’s attention.

To make your digital message stick, remember these tips:

• Keep content short, simple, and useful.

• Give visitors what they want. Say it fast, and say it well.

• Include keywords near the top and in headings, link text, and subject lines.

• Start with the most important information.

• Create compelling titles and headings.

• Make copy scannable using lists, headings, visual elements, and links.

• Use active voice and a conversational, casual tone.

• Think globally.

• Include relevant cross-links and a call to action.

Learn more about writing great web content

THIS:

RAPID TRACK TRAINING AT THE RED HAT SUMMIT

5 of our most popular classes (plus exams) at an accelerated pace. Appropriate for experienced developers and sysadmins.

Learn more.

10 a.m., Monday, April 31, 2014 Smith Ballroom, Floor 5

Register now.

NOT THIS:

The Red Hat Summit planning team, in concert with our training and consulting organizations, would like to cordially extend to you an invitation to attend the third-annual, highly rated Red Hat Rapid Track training experience, held this year on the day before the Summit begins in the Smith Ballroom, Floor 5, at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 31st. These rapid track training courses are best for experienced developers and sysadmins, and include the appropriate exams as well as a fast-paced, condensed version of our typical training materials, delivered by a Red Hat expert instructor.