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Quick-reference Style Guides: If You Produce Content for Your Business, You Need One

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

What is a Style Guide?

Well, a style guide isn’t about the Friday casual dress code at your home office. It’s all about laying down some rules that help make your content and branding consistent and professional. It’s a reference list of pre-made decisions that takes the guesswork out of your content creation.

Types of Style Guides

There are Editorial Style Guides and Brand Style Guides. For smaller, one-off projects, editors often create style sheets. You could create a combination of all three, since small business owners do it all anyway, am I right?

An editorial style guide:

  • “spells out” the names, places, products, terminology, and other details specific to your business

  • provides guidelines for capitalization, abbreviations, and punctuation (Yes, those commas are important.)

A branding style guide:

  • lists formatting and design elements such as fonts, font sizes, heading styles, spacing, logos, logo placement, images/image sources, and hex and RGB colour codes

Why do I Need a Style Guide?

  • If you get help with your content writing and editing of any kind, including web pages, blog posts, social media posts and profiles, email newsletters, print material-- if you’re not the only one putting your company’s face out there--you need one.

  • If you want your content and your brand to look professional and polished, you need one.

  • If you want to avoid inconsistencies that distract and trip up readers by interrupting the flow of your content, you need one.

  • It’s a time saver. No more scrolling through old posts to see if it’s Macdonald or McDonald. No more time spent on decision-making. And fewer embarrassing oopsies.

  • It takes one more thing off your overflowing plate. Your virtual assistant can quickly refer to the guide to see that Van der Huuvenflek is spelled with a lowercase d. Your graphic designer won’t have to wait for a response to her question about logo placement on your landing page.

How to Create a Simple Style Guide

  • This is a great project for your VA to manage. Audit your website, social media posts and profiles and any other marketing material. Note common terms, words and any business-speak that should be translated into client-friendly language.

  • Choose a professional guide to reference if you wish, such as the AP Stylebook, or The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). You can also list the online dictionary you use. The main thing is to ensure consistency--for instance American spelling ( traveling) v. British (travelling).

  • To take it a step further, you can include guidelines for style and tone. Should your content be conversational rather than business-speak/formal? (yes!) Is your message best conveyed in the first person and in the present tense?

  • Create a simple table organized into sections for editorial elements such as names, numbers, products, and business-speak. Beside each section, list alphabetically any item that should always be spelled or formatted a certain way--preferably the correct way!

  • Another section could be reserved for writing guidelines on style and tone.

  • Use a new page to list your design and formatting guidelines. Accompanying screenshots are also useful.

  • Don’t forget to link to the professional guide used for the main reference

Click here to download your free Style Guide template [coming soon].

Okay, that's nice. But actually, would you rather have someone else look after all this for you?

Let’s talk.


Lori Fowler