Whilst most organisations are punctilious with their use of logos, colour schemes and visual templates, many pay lip service to the style of their content; and few professional organisations have a robust content style guide. Read on to understand the importance and value of having one for your business.
What is a content style guide?
In short, a content style guide determines ‘how you write’. Not just for articles, though – emails, blogs, website pages, letters, and even Tweets.
A content style guide is a handy reference for all team members (including you) that will ensure consistency across every piece of writing. It specifies (amongst other aspects):
- The tone of your writing (when to use informal/formal language – perhaps differing for each medium);
- The voice used in your writing (third person imperfect, first person, etc.);
- The layout of your writing (paragraph and line spacing, size/type of bullets, tab spacing and indents, font type and size etc. – again, perhaps differing for each medium);
- Punctuation style (limiting the number of exclamation marks; whether to use a semi-colon or ‘dash’, whether to use speech marks or quotation marks etc.);
- Whether (and when) to number paragraphs;
- Grammatical/Spelling nuances (-ise or –ize; as both are correct in UK and US English, capitalisation of certain words, who or whom etc.);
- When to use bold, italics; or what the ‘heading’ styles are (and when to use them);
- Whether to spell numbers (i.e. should you use ‘one’ or ‘1’?);
- The correct spelling of often-used (but perhaps awkward) words.
Let me give you some examples. Do you want you and your team to write:
- RT, retweet, retweet, ReTweet, or re-tweet?
- Email, email, e-mail, or E-mail?
- We ordered one, or we ordered 1?
- Ecommerce, e-commerce, or E-commerce?
- Facebook: A social media platform, facebook; a Social Media Platform, or FaceBook: a Social Media platform?
- Our Engineers will respond, or our engineers will respond (actually – only one of those is ‘correct’)?
- Hi Matt; Hello Matt; Good afternoon, Matt; or maybe Good morning, Mr Osborne?
- Thanks Matt, Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully, See you soon, or Cheers?
The benefits of a content style guide
Consistency, accuracy and professionalism.
Why go to the effort of creating beautiful templates, logos and bespoke colour schemes that shout “check out how professional we are”, when a second (or worse, third!) exclamation mark wipes out your credibility in a single stroke…?
A well-crafted content style guide will also ensure that you don’t blow a tender opportunity by addressing the business owner as dr Smith. Dr Smith (or Doctor Smith) is quite fussy about these things, you know…
Lay down the ground rules and guidelines from the offset (although it’s never too late to catch up), and you and your team will deliver the perfect prose and punctilious punctuation (as long as you haven’t outlawed alliteration) – perfectly.
A content style guide defines your brand persona, and contributes to its voice.
A content style guide should be treated as a living organism – to be nurtured and updated as you encounter tricky spelling/punctuation/grammatical/style issues; and will provide you with an invaluable resource for many years to come.
Why not get in touch to see how cost effective a bespoke content style guide is for your company?
What words, phrases, or formatting do you often agonise over? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?