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Elements of the ASU brand


Language used in ASU branding should reflect ASU’s focus on inclusivity, innovation, community service and collaboration, both locally and globally. This overview provides strategies you can use to effectively align your content with the ASU brand.

ASU-branded language is direct, clear and sincere. It is not overly clever, catchy, slick or cute. It must be audience-appropriate. Text should be as succinct as possible, and writing should be inspiring, provocative and declarative.

  • Reduce for power, clarity, gravity.
  • Use direct language.
  • Convey sincerity.

When communicating the ASU brand, language should be:

  • Genuine, not slick.
  • Down to earth, not excessively idealistic.
  • Smart, not clever or satirical.
  • Heartfelt and caring, not overly sentimental.
  • Optimistic, not dreamy.
  • Bold, not weak or dainty.


  • Abbreviations, acronyms. Shortened forms not readily recognizable by the reader should be avoided. 
  • Jargon. Connection with our readers is key, so avoid jargon. Instead, explain with illustrative or descriptive language.
  • Long headings, titles. Be concise and informative. The BBC and CNN news headlines are excellent examples of brevity, averaging five words.
  • Poor grammar. Common examples are switching between first and third person, when the subject of a sentence and the verb don’t agree in number, and changing tenses in the same sentence or paragraph.
  • Unnecessary phrases. Substitute appropriate words or rewrite the sentence.
  • University size and enrollment numbers. Students who don’t select ASU often cite the size of the university as a reason for attending elsewhere.

See Abbreviations.

Select powerful words: 

  • Affect, influence, change, invent, reinvent, act, imagine, rethink, rewrite, see, do, create, solve, build, commit, redefine, lead, chart, aim, design, engineer, form, intend, map, project, purpose, shape, sketch, think, possibility, strategy, solutions, plan, potential, world, future, momentum, challenges. 

ASU branding in content

For standardized text, including boilerplate and campus descriptions, see ASU standardized text.

Readers must identify with our messages, and writers should strive to create relationships with our readers. It’s important to communicate in a conversational style appropriate to each audience, modifying traditional “academic speak” to conform with the ASU brand. Wording should be as succinct as possible, but not simple.

Before. Arizona State University is a comprehensive metropolitan research university for the 21st century, internationally known for its high-quality academic and research programs. Students from all 50 states and more than 130 countries enroll at ASU each year, bringing their diverse thoughts, cultures and backgrounds to the university's scholarly environment. By matching university talents and expertise with the vision of community and industry leaders, ASU provides indispensable research and support to address the major issues affecting the quality of life in the Valley of the Sun, the state of Arizona, and throughout the nation and world.

After. Arizona State University is a New American University. We embrace the educational needs of the entire population, not just a select group. We are a force for discovery, turning students into thought leaders who will shape the future. We take responsibility for the economic, social and cultural health of the communities we serve, and we conduct our research by considering its impact on the public good.

Cost language 

  • Never mention cost or position ASU programs as free. This association does not support quality in our academic offering and weakens the ASU brand.
  • We should never mention discounts but may advertise scholarships (e.g., “Get a $5,000 scholarship if you apply by July 1”). Approved references to scholarships are recommended as supporting copy, not headlines.
  • Mentioning pricing in some nondegree programs is acceptable.

Gender-neutral language

Do not use he/she, s/he or he and she when the gender of the subject is unknown. Instead, rewrite the statement for clarity: If a student requests information, the student should be directed to the correct office.

Use terms that can apply to any gender, such as chair or chairperson and spokesperson unless the -man or -woman terms are specified by an organization; police officer instead of policeman, policewoman or patrolman; business owner or businessperson instead of businessman or businesswoman; humanity, humankind, humans, human beings, people instead of mankind; and first-year student or freshman but not freshperson or freshwoman. First-year student is preferred since it’s gender-neutral and more inclusive.

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun.

See ASU branding in content, Punctuation and symbols, Word list.


When possible, ask people how they prefer to be described (when the description is relevant). Some people, for example, refer to themselves as a disabled person or simply disabled, using identify-first language. Others prefer person with a disability, using person-first language. In describing groups of people, use person-first language.


When communicating to general audiences, use clear, concise language.

See ASU branding in content.

Other universities

When writing that an ASU graduate has moved on to another university, do not use the university’s name. Replace it with another prestigious university or other top-tier universities.


Avoid mixing singular and plural pronouns. They/them/their are plural pronouns and should not be used as substitutes for singular nouns. Exception: In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible.

See Gender-neutral language


  • Rewrite the sentence to avoid confusion:
    • 🚫 Applicants must submit their materials by the deadline.
    • ✅  Applicants must submit all materials by the deadline.
  • Replace the pronoun with an article:
    • 🚫 Ask the student to prepare his presentation.
    • ✅ Ask the student to prepare a presentation.
  • Revise the sentence to use the pronoun one:
    • 🚫 A prepared student is more likely to succeed than if he has not done sufficient research.
    • ✅  A prepared student is more likely to succeed than an unprepared one.
  • Revise the sentence to use the pronoun who:
    • 🚫  A student is more likely to succeed if he does sufficient research.
    • ✅  A student who does sufficient research is more likely to succeed.

Requirements statements


Depending upon a student's undergraduate program of study, additional courses may need to be completed as prerequisites in order to complete the requirements of this certificate. 

English proficiency

This is required only for graduate programs, not graduate certificates. If the statement is included on a certificate program, however, it may remain.

Acceptable versions:

An applicant whose native language is not English (regardless of current residency) must provide proof of English proficiency.

TOEFL first reference: A Test of English as a Foreign Language is required for any applicant whose native language is not English regardless of where they currently reside.

TOEFL subsequent references: A TOEFL is required for any applicant whose native language is not English regardless of where they currently reside.

Graduate education

The Division of Graduate Education requirements statement should appear on each graduate degree and graduate certificate program: Applicants must fulfill both the requirements of the Division of Graduate Education office and those of the <college name>.


Do not create ambiguity by mixing symbols with words: and/or, test(s).

See Punctuation and symbols, Word list.