Every company, organization or entity that produces written content should have a style guide. Regardless of size, a style guide allows you to communicate consistently with your customers, clients, benefactors or the wider world.
An Inherent Paradox
A style guide is a codification of rules for writing. This may include issues of grammar (including spelling and punctuation), industry terminology, vocabulary and tone. Creating a style guide requires thought and decision making; it provides your organization with a reference to use for the long term.
At the same time, a style guide must be a living document that can keep up with changes in technology, “lingo,” or other accepted practices. Do you remember a time when “tweeting” was restricted to the noise that birds make? Or being instructed to use a double space after a period? Changes like this happen for valid reasons and need to be incorporated into your content.
Isn’t This a Big Deal Over Nothing?
Why does a style guide matter?
The people reading your content want consistency. If your company is based in the United States but your press releases use British spelling and your blog Australian slang, what will your readers think? If your company grows from a tiny operation to one that is much larger, consistency across content offers reassurance that your quality, services and reliability remain trustworthy.
This is not implying that you can never bring in new employees, reassign tasks or use freelancers! But if your style is consistent through all pieces of content, it means that someone is keeping watch.
Benefits that you should see soon after implementing a style guide are:
- Time savings for editing content: Using the approved version of a term or industry phrase the first time means less time spent editing later.
- Fewer conflicts over style choices: Pick one and stick with it! Aside from developments in your field, your style guide will lend continuity to content over time and limit disagreements over common phrasing.
- Happier content creators (and editors): Nothing bugs a writer more than an editor who is frequently changing something that isn’t “wrong” as much as “different.” Give your writers a guide to preferred language to eliminate the guesswork involved in content creation.
In my next blog post, I’ll help you brainstorm what should be included in your style guide, as well as how to incorporate changes as you go.