Use a Style Guide To Help Your Organization Establish Credible Communications

A style guide helps to keep your public and internal communications consistent and as free of errors as possible. Inconsistent messaging confuses and isolates your audiences.

It summarizes your organization’s approach to writing commonly used terms and jargon specific to your trade.

It sets the standard rule for styling and spelling the names of your programs and services.

It is important to take the time to document a consistent style for your publications to maintain the credibility of your organization’s message.

It is best practice to designate a point person who can objectively maintain the style guide, after getting input from employees and members.

A style guide helps an organization clarify expectations and distinct branding requirements for various marketing initiatives.

A style guide should include any special language to be used in specific circumstances (e.g., key customer service language for different audiences/clients). If necessary, it should include exceptions to the rule.

It is a critical tool for developing a uniform brand identity across different mediums and helps companies avoid erroneous branding and writing mishaps.

If your bloggers need guidance, you should include rules on word-count expectations, internal/external linking requirements, and targeted keywords to use.

A traditional style guide contains information on grammar and editorial word usage. Your editorial standards should include the following:

  • Abbreviations and acronyms.
  • Capitalization (e.g., the names of your programs and services)
  • Word usage—(e.g., web site or website, grant making or grantmaking).
  • Words to avoid—helpful for guest writers/bloggers.
  • Terminology (e.g., is it Internet or internet? LGBTQ, LGBTQIA).
  • Sentence structure—serial commas, special punctuation.
  • Tone (e.g., casual, academic, formal, or authoritative).
  • Where to check if your question is not addressed (Chicago Manual of Style, AP Stylebook, APA Publication Manual, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary).

A comprehensive style guide includes rules on the use of visual elements, such as these :

  • Description of the logo.
  • Rules on how the logo should be displayed (e.g., in report, postcard, brochure, website page, or e-news).
  • Specific fonts to use and size, weight, and when to use bold or italics.
  • A color palette and the specific colors to use in different documents.
  • What style of bullets to use.
  • How numbered lists should appear.
  • Examples of how not to use your branding elements.
  • Rules on who should use your organization’s branding.

An effective style guide must be a living document that is updated on a regular basis. Schedule annual reviews and updates to the style guide. A designated team, led by the product development specialist, who writes and updates the document, should review it.

Have an informal meeting or special event to introduce your employees to this tool and get them vested in it.

For help in developing your organization’s style guide, visit dM Editorial Solutions at Let’s talk about it.

About The dutty is "the ground," the foundation, the earth--just like words are part of the foundation on which I build my life.

Reason for being: To tell stories and help writers and others with a message to put their best word forward.
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