Does your company or organization have style guidelines? The answer is probably yes. Whether everyone is aware of the guidelines and uses them is another story. Style guidelines can cover everything from design (graphics, logos, etc.) and editorial style (spelling, grammar, etc.) and are needed to maintain the brand image and provide consistency to both the writer and the reader.
Without style guidelines, communications get sloppy, diminishing your message along with the company brand. Think of your company as a team and the company logo, colors, and editorial guidelines as the team uniform.
When I first meet with clients wanting editorial work, I find out immediately if they have a style manual. I’ve had plenty of people respond with, “I don’t know,” in which case I do quick research into the company’s recent communications and ask questions throughout the editing process.
And if your company does not have a style guideline, there is no need to reinvent the wheel: there are enough corporate style guidelines created by strong, respected brands to get ideas, as well as the Associated Press Style Book, which is used in many industries.
These are some examples of what a style guideline would cover:
- How your company spells words specific to an industry/sector
- When words are hyphenated
- When words are capitalized
- Correct usage of industry terms
- How to designate authored publications
- Does your company use the Oxford comma?
A design guideline would encompass colors, graphics, logos, etc.
I recently spoke to a former editor of a company magazine who said he had a 20-page style guide he never updated. “That was stupid,” he said. “But it was all in my head.” This happens a lot: there is no physical guide, but one person, or a group of people, have the guidelines fairly memorized. But unless the guidelines can be accessed and utilized easily, everyone is not on the same page.
Here are some thoughts about keeping or developing corporate style guidelines. And for all of these thoughts, remember: don’t over think it, don’t make it time-consuming, focus on the big picture, and refer employees to more details in the guide.
- Let employees know you have guidelines and where those guidelines are housed (intranet, internal communications software, etc.)
- Be explicit about why following the company style guidelines is important.
- If you’re following, for example, the Associated Press Style Book, ensure the company stays on top of changes and updates.
- Offer employees a lunch-and-learn or an always-available video/presentation about the company’s graphic and editorial guidelines.
And, again, make the guidelines easily accessible in writing to everyone.