man creating a writing style guide

What is a Writing Style Guide and Why Your Business Needs One (Yes, Even Yours)

When you communicate with friends and family, there’s a familiar, expected way each person expresses themselves, making conversations comfortable and understandable.

For example, your straight-shooting uncle might be known for his direct, no-nonsense approach. But what if he suddenly started speaking in lyrical prose? Wouldn’t that be jarring and confusing?

The same could be said for your brand. Just as people come to expect a certain communication style from individuals they know well, consumers develop expectations for how a brand communicates. Your brand’s ‘voice’ becomes a part of its identity and consistency in this tone across all marketing channels helps build a recognizable and reliable brand personality.

To help maintain this clarity, reliability and consistency, all brands should have a writing style guide. This collection of guidelines lays out how to approach writing in your business. It includes rules and recommendations on grammar, punctuation, terminology, and formatting. 

The aim is to ensure that all writing is uniform and that it adheres to the branding and communication strategies of the business. Just as consistent communication styles are crucial in personal relationships for clarity and reliability, maintaining a consistent tone in your brand’s copywriting is essential for building and nurturing consumer trust, brand recognition, and overall brand integrity.

What to Include in a Writing Style Guide

A well-crafted style guide is a living document that evolves with your brand. It serves as a roadmap for anyone at your business creating content, ensuring that all communication is consistent, on-brand, and tailored to your audience.

Everything that requires words should adhere to the writing style guide. In fact, it should be ingrained in company culture. Your writing style guide may include the following elements and standards. 

Mission Statement, Brand Values and Target Audience

In the brand overview section of your writing style guide, the focus is on establishing the foundation of your brand’s identity. This should include a mission and vision statement, as well as your brand values.

Defining your target audience is also crucial. By having a clear picture of who you are speaking to, you can tailor your tone, language, and messaging to resonate deeply with this group.

Tone and Voice

The tone and voice is where the personality of your brand is shaped. Discuss tone variations, explaining how the tone of your content might change depending on the context, such as the differences between social media posts and formal reports.

Language and Grammar

Language and grammar guidelines are essential for maintaining clarity and consistency. This part of the style guide should specify your preferences for grammar and punctuation, aligned with standard guides like the AP Style or the Chicago Manual of Style, including any deviations that are unique to your brand. 

There should be clear guidelines on the use of jargon and technical terms, specifying when and how to use industry-specific language, as well as language sensitivity guidelines for inclusive and non-discriminatory language is crucial in today’s diverse landscape.

Formatting and Structure

Your writing style guide should instruct all aspects of formatting and structure including the use of headers and subheaders for better readability. It’s important to include standards for creating lists and bullet points for clarity and emphasis and best practices for crafting each Call-to-Action (CTA) to ensure effective audience engagement.

Platform-Specific Standards

Your content will be shared across different mediums and each will have their own nuances. Your writing style guide should include SEO content guidelines, which cover aspects like keyword usage, metadata, and link-building practices, as well as web accessibility standards so that web content is accessible to all users. 

For social media, there should be specific styles and tone adaptations suitable for various platforms (like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn), including guidelines on the usage of hashtags and emojis on each platform.

Legal and Compliance

It is critical to ensure that your content adheres to legal standards. This includes guidelines on the use of copyrighted material and trademark symbols, as well as disclosure requirements for sponsored content or affiliate marketing, ensuring transparency and ethical practices in all your communications.

Editing and Revision Process

Steps for editing and approving content should include feedback mechanisms outlining how to provide and receive constructive feedback, ensuring a consistent and quality output across all content.

Examples and References

Include sample texts that reflect your brand’s style and serve as ideal examples of your content. A glossary of terms, listing common terms and definitions used within your brand, can serve as a quick reference to maintain consistency in language use.

Regular Updates

It’s important to have a section on Regular Updates. This should include a revision schedule to ensure that the style guide is reviewed and updated regularly, keeping it current and relevant to the evolving needs of your brand, audience and industry.

Why Your Business Needs a Writing Style Guide

We know the “what” and the “how”, so let’s look at the “why”. A writing style guide is more than just words.

Defines Your Brand Identity

A writing style guide is important in establishing and conveying a business’s brand identity. It ensures that every piece of communication reflects the brand’s values and personality. Consistent use of voice and tone across all written content helps to building a recognizable and relatable brand. This differentiates the business from competitors.

Creates Consistency

Cohesion and consistency of written communication are important for maintaining a professional image. It ensures that messages are not contradictory or confusing to the audience. A writing style guide sees to it that the content feels like it comes from a single, unified entity, reinforcing trust and reliability in the brand.

Ensure Communication is Clear

A writing style guide sets standards for language, structure, and formatting. It helps to avoid ambiguous terms and ensures that messages are easy to understand. This reduces the risk of misinterpretation and enhancing the effectiveness of the communication.

Saves You Time

Having a clear set of guidelines can significantly streamline the writing and editing process. This makes it faster and more efficient. Writers and editors can quickly reference the guide, reducing the time spent on revisions. This efficiency saves time and resources, enabling a faster turnaround for content deployment. 

Avoid Mistakes

A comprehensive writing style guide helps to minimizing errors in grammar, punctuation, and usage. It serves as a reference to ensure that common pitfalls are avoided and that the content maintains a high-quality standard. This is especially relevant if English (or the company’s chosen language) is not the writer’s first language. 

Improve Collaboration

Where many contributors are involved in creating content, a writing style guide makes sure that everyone is on the same page. This improves collaboration within the business, making it easier to produce cohesive content. It also improves collaboration with outside content creators like agencies or freelancers. 

Optimize Copy for SEO

If you’re using digital platforms, a writing style guide that includes guidelines for Search Engine Optimization. It can ensure that content is not only reader-friendly but also optimized for search engines. This can enhance the visibility of the content online, attracting more traffic to your website. It applies to all forms of digital marketing like emailers, social media and website copy.

Follow Regulations

If you are subject to regulatory standards on communication, a writing style guide can ensure that all content complies with these requirements. This is crucial for avoiding potential legal issues and maintaining the integrity of the business.

Always Professional

Finally, a well-maintained writing style guide reflects the professionalism of a business. It shows that you are committed to quality and consistency with your communication. This can positively influence how customers, partners, and competitors perceive the brand.

Get Experts to Write Your Guide

Developing a writing style guide for your business is not a task to be undertaken lightly. It requires a collaboration between a team of experts like writers, marketers and communication specialists to create a comprehensive and effective guide. If you’re looking for such a team, give us a call and we will help you create an effective writing style guide.

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