Style Serves a Function


We were knee-deep in both proofreading and brand standards projects last week, so I thought it fitting that I should stumble across a Huffington Post article on the importance of  brand style guides. In it, author Dave Standen argues that companies should act like publishers and set guidelines and standards for their digital and print content.

Why? Well, there are lots of good reasons, but in a nutshell,  according to Standen, “A good style guide lays the foundations for consistent, on-message brand content to be created (be it in-house, agency or freelance) and approved.”

If you are considering creating a style guide for your brand, read on for six steps you can take to make sure your guide is useful and easy-to-use.

Choose an external style guide like the Chicago Manual of Style, The AP Stylebook or, the new kid on the block, The Yahoo! Style Guide.  (At Next-Mark, we use the AP.)

Decide upon internal style guidelines. This is especially useful for the consistent use of product names and industry terminology (e.g., Is it ‘healthcare’ or ‘health care’?).

Clearly define your tone and voice. Are you formal or pithy? Provide examples, so your writers really know what you mean.

Describe how you write for the Web. Don’t assume that your writers know how to write for the Web; be sure to include guidelines for SEO and metadata.

Set a style for social media. If your brand has a social media presence, lay out the differences between writing for each of the different platforms.

Visual content. Content isn’t just text. Provide standards for things like video and infographics, too.

Many of our clients already have content style guides that are part of, or used to augment, their brand playbooks.  I am comforted by the fact that I have somewhere to turn when deciding whether or not to use a serial comma and when to use sentence case. (Confession: It doesn’t follow AP, but I love the Oxford comma.)