A style guide helps to bring clarity to a company’s brand voice. It ensures all your writing has quality and consistency and can reinforce your brand. This is particularly essential when you are scaling your content and marketing efforts beyond just one author or content team. And it doesn’t stop at printed materials. If you plan to publish copy across digital media formats, it’s important to include some of the unique considerations for those platforms.
A brand is a living entity with a personality and values. As a company, you want to exude those values, not only through the exceptional products and services you offer but also through a distinctly creative and consistent depiction of the same. While it’s important to craft your logos and graphics carefully, you shouldn’t neglect your copy.
Implementing a defined writing style shows who you are and what you stand for by the way you express yourself. Setting your tone and style helps nurture and enlighten your audience so that readers can clearly and confidently align their needs with your solutions.
A style guide is useful not only for writers in the marketing department, but also for the web team, client relations, media relations, the sales team and more – basically anyone who creates marketing materials, web copy, letters, emails, and other types of content. They are all ambassadors of your brand.
How to get started
Start by determining which style conventions need to be included. What mistakes or style missteps do you often see? What style questions do others frequently ask? Seek input from colleagues across the company. Review marketing materials, email messages, advertising and web copy for inspiration. Consider how you want to be perceived. Do you want to communicate conversationally, or should you take a more formal approach? What do you want the reader to remember about you? Come up with keywords that characterize your brand values. Use them to help structure your brand voice.
A few tips
Editorial style guides can be simple or comprehensive. Often, they don’t just delve into style conventions, but provide guidance on how to represent your brand to the world. Some are a single-page style sheet (for example, a quick reference on web conventions), others run 30 pages or more (if you are putting together a comprehensive style guide for a large corporation).
Consider including some or all of the following in your style guide:
- Common grammar rules
- Preferred spelling of words and terms
- Frequently misused words and terms
- Spelling of fund/product names, index names, etc.
- Glossary of common terms, defined
- Explanation of industry-related acronyms and abbreviations
- Best practices of style –address formats, font preferences, how to express numbers, bulleted list styles, Canadian vs. U.S. spelling, active vs. passive voice, serial comma
- How to write a letter or email (e.g., salutation, body copy construction, call to action, signature line)
- Guidance on the use of inclusive, non-biased language
- Style standards that are unique to your company
- A link to a general reference guide such as the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, the Canadian Press (CP) Stylebook or another based on your industry, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) Manual of Style
A thoughtful and comprehensive style guide helps ensure brand consistency. It is a living document that should be updated when rules, preferences, and other circumstances change. Refresh it every year and store a digital version that’s easy to access and edit.
Looking to strengthen your brand with a style guide? Ext. can help you create a style guide that adds clarity and structure to your voice. Contact us today at 1.844.243.1830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.