What Is a Style Guide and Why Do You Need One?

December 13th 2016       Sally Ormond       communications, consistency, copywriter, Marketing, style guide

Style guide

 

One of the simple things that give your organisation credibility is your consistency of style.

By style, I mean your written communications, marketing materials and visuals.

It is basically a guide that defines the written brand of your business (your stylebook looks at company colours, logos etc.) that is used by anyone who creates or sends any written communication.

What should it contain?

Great, now you know what one is, what should it contain?

Well, it should cover everything to do with writing:

  • How you capitalise your company name and product/service names
  • Which technical jargon is OK and how it should be used?
  • Whether you use the Oxford comma or not
  • Whether you spell words or use numerals
  • Should every acronym have a full stop after every letter?
  • Is it OK to use contractions?
  • Should you write OK or ok?
  • How do you use semicolons?

You get the picture.

It also looks at the tone of voice – i.e. the personality – of your marketing and communications:

  • Can you use slang?
  • Is it OK to use puns?
  • Should the writing be in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person?
  • Should the writing be formal or informal?
  • Can sentences start with and or but?

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about.

Do you really need one?

I’ve already talked about the main reason for needing one – creating a consistent message.

By using the style guide, everything you produce will reinforce your brand, which is important because inconsistencies (no matter how small) can make you look unprofessional.

Every business could use one; they’re not just for the big boys.

Enforcing your style

Of course, there’s no point in going to the lengths of creating a guide if you’re not going to reinforce it.

Everyone has to be aware of it, not just your marketing and communications people – that includes your CEO.

Make sure you run in-house training sessions so everyone is aware of it and spot check the content periodically to make sure no errors are slipping through.

It might seem like a lot of work, but as a result, you will produce consistent communications that all ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’, generating a coherent message that’s on brand every time.

Isn’t it time you put a style guide together?

 

 

Tags: communications, consistency, copywriter, Marketing, style guide
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