Do you have more than one person writing copy for your website, social media channels, and content marketing? While a mix of unique styles can help make your content more interesting, minor differences in tone, usage, punctuation, and formatting can add up over time and create distracting inconsistencies.
A simple writing style guide can solve this problem, giving freelancers and internal contributors creative flexibility while helping you maintain a coherent voice throughout your content.
Here are a few style guidelines to help get you started.
Voice, Tone, and Terminology
- How would you describe your brand’s voice and tone? Voice is about personality: formal, conservative, casual, serious, friendly, laid back, authoritative. Tone is about mood and feeling: happy, joyful, sarcastic, earnest, excited, subdued, contemplative, chatty, goofy, playful.
- How would you describe your audience’s level of expertise? Are they industry veterans interested in highly technical explanations and details, or novices looking for more general advice and insight? These are two distinct audiences requiring two very different writing styles.
Spelling and Capitalization
Words evolve over time, especially those related to technology.
- e-mail or email?
- whitepaper or white paper?
- internet or Internet?
Product and Service Names
List the official name of each product and service you sell. TurboTax “Home & Business + QuickBooks Self-Employed” can easily morph over time into “Home and Business plus QuickBooks Self Employed” without a common standard for each writer to reference.
Common Punctuation and Capitalization Guidelines
- When should the word following a colon be capitalized?
- What’s the best way to format a bulleted list?
- Should a comma precede the last “and” in a list sentence?
- When should an em dash, en dash, or hyphen be used?
- How should dates, times, and phone numbers be formatted?
- When are executive and staff titles capitalized?
- Will you use contractions like you’re and we’ve?
Updating Older Content
As your style guide evolves over time, it will be impractical to re-edit every blog post or white paper you’ve ever produced. Focus your attention on high-traffic web pages and popular marketing content.