So, you’re creating content (white papers, reports, emails) and have many employees supporting ongoing communications. But what happens when different language styles emerge, like e-mail or email? Do employees know which style you prefer? Or, what about your company’s verbal brand standards? How do you make sure everyone uses the same voice?
The secret sauce lies in the style guides you use.
Your style guide can be a versatile tool and a key component of your content governance program. With clear standards for language and formatting, aligning all your written documents with your cohesive brand will happen more naturally. For content creation that runs like a well-oiled machine, you’ll need a detailed style guide.
What is a style guide?
A style guide is a comprehensive reference for creating content. Using a style guide will help you maintain consistency within documents and across all the materials you create. Style guides also increase efficiency and give structure to the content creation process. Your style guide should cover:
- Tone. Give tips about formality, audience, and the traits you’re hoping to convey with the content you create. A consistent tone is crucial to developing well-governed content: It gives your organization one cohesive voice to communicate with. Clients will come to recognize and anticipate your personalized, clear, and consistent style.
- Grammar and spelling. English evolves faster than any other recorded language. As such, our grammar styles, word nuances, andpunctuation choices can sometimes evolve. You can unify your voice by making choices about abbreviations and sentence structure, as well as any industry-specific lingo. A robust style guide may even help solve disputes: All content must meet your established guidelines, not anyone’s personal style or preference.
- Formatting and design. Your brand style probably includes specifics around how you visually create content. An effective style guide will include templates for different documents and examples of formatting and placement. By defining the correct style, you help everyone avoid the guesswork of creating this structure on their own. With an accepted style guide in place, writers, editors, and designers can create content that upholds how to visually bring your brand to life.
- Updates and changes. Remember to update your style guide as you add products and develop your brand. Your style guide should focus on promoting your style and branding, but the toolkit may also include terminology or choices you want to avoid. If you notice common mistakes creeping into content and other materials, address them in your style guide.
Should you also use an industry style book?
Once you’ve built your own style guide, you may choose to also adopt a standardized style guide that suits your industry and your audience best. The AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, and the MLA Handbook are all popular options.
The most effective choice for uniting styles within your organization is to use both types. You can use the AP Style as a jumping-off point to develop your in-house style guide for product branding, terminology, and tone that’s specific to your company. Consider producing a one-page style sheet that outlines the most important parts of your style guide and distribute it widely.
Your style guide will likely start small and grow as you strengthen and develop your brand identity. Individual members of your organization will be able to communicate with a singular voice and message.
Remember, a well-organized, thorough style guide will can help govern not just what you say, but how you say it. And those defining features are essential for building a brand that audiences connect with — time and time again.