As a business, you’re probably creating content on a somewhat regular basis. You may have a team to help you. Consistency across your brand copy is important, but, if you have a content team, how do you ensure consistency? The answer is to use a style guide.
We’ve already spoken about the importance of consistency across brand copy, but how can style guides help? Style guides are a set of guidelines and standards for creating consistent and coherent content. They outline language, grammar, and punctuation conventions; formatting; and document design.
When multiple people are working on content, style guides ensure that all members of the team are on the same page (sometimes literally) and produce consistent content. You can also use your style guide to address any legal or ethical considerations. For example, you may be writing content on sensitive topics, where using inclusive language is necessary. You could outline these preferred terms in your style guide.
Having one central place that all your content creators can access will streamline your content creation process, meaning you’re free to create. If you need more convincing about the benefits, read our blog on why your team needs a style guide.
There are many style guides out there, so it can be hard to know where to start. But fear not. Below, we have outlined 12 of the top business-focused style guides.
Intuit is a fintech company, most famous for its QuickBooks software. Intuit has created a content design system that includes advice on inclusive and accessible language.
Mailchimp, a marketing automation and email marketing platform, has a very detailed style guide that covers creating many different types of content, including legal content, email newsletters, and social media.
Monzo has a very distinct brand voice, which has lots of great information on writing in Plain English. It also has a short outline of why English speakers often want to use more complicated language than is necessary.
Microsoft created its Manual of Style more than 20 years ago, which has now been replaced with the Microsoft Writing Style Guide. It’s a comprehensive guide, which covers the main language points, but it also provides content ideas for specific user needs.
Material Design is one of the most famous examples of a style guide. Google strongly focuses on user experience, so there’s lots of information about layout, typography, and navigation.
Shopify’s Polaris focuses on the language of selling. It has information on writing persuasive copy, alternative text, error messages, and customer-focused content. This last point is especially important, as we discuss in our blog on customer-centric content.
As the name implies, Conscious focuses on inclusivity based on factors, including age, ability, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and socioeconomic status. This website has many blogs and articles on what terminology is best when referring to different groups of people.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has long been a pioneer of content. Alongside the common aspects of style guides, BBC guidelines include information about navigating the legal aspects of publishing content.
The UK government has a legal obligation to provide accessible and plain English content, so, naturally, they provide a lot of guidance on these aspects. However, they also have advice on content design planning, writing, and management.
The Apple Style Guide focuses on maintaining a consistent voice in Apple materials, including documentation, staff training, and user information. It takes its inspiration from The American Heritage Dictionary, The Chicago Manual of Style (see Academic Style Guides below), and Words into Type.
The University of Leeds has a downloadable PDF that covers the University’s stance on voice in writing. They outline their vision, principles, and personality and provide tips on how to achieve these goals. Near the end of the guide, they also include advice on writing for the web.
In the above style guides, we have mostly focused on the language aspects of style guides, but the design of the content is just as important. HubSpot outlines the most important aspects of content design, namely color palettes, typography, and imagery and iconography and gives examples of companies that have well-thought-out designs.
Above, we’ve outlined the most popular business style guides, but it’s also worth mentioning that several other style guides are more commonly used in academia but could also be useful in other settings too. These are the Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS), Associated Press (AP), Modern Language Association (MLA), and American Psychological Association (APA). These are updated regularly (CMoS is currently on its 17th edition), so make sure to check back for the most up-to-date version.
Style guides facilitate effective and consistent communication that leads to quality content and therefore happy readers. A well-designed style guide will help you maintain consistency, brand identity, accuracy, and clarity. The style guides outlined above are great examples of what style guides usually include. Not every part will be relevant, but you can pick and choose what suits your needs.
Of course, you don’t have to use any of these style guides if you don’t want to. You could create your own. Most style guides include information on:
If you need more help, we have a blog on how to create a brand style guide for your business.
It would also benefit you to establish who in your team is in charge of what and when. Review this system regularly to ensure it is working at its best.
Style guides are an invaluable tool in content creation. They help content teams of any size create consistent, quality content; maintain your brand voice; protect your reputation; and streamline content creation.
In this blog, we have outlined 12 popular style guides and discussed why they are favored. We’ve also discussed some academic style guides that you can use. Not every part of these style guides will likely be relevant to your business, so you could borrow the parts you need to create your own style guide. Most style guides cover voice and style, grammar and punctuation, preferred terms, accessibility requirements, image and media use, and formatting and layout. Ultimately, you should use something that best suits your content needs.
We know that creating and maintaining quality content is challenging, but our team of fully managed editors are here to help. We can work with your style guide (if you decide to create one) or a style guide of your choice, ensuring consistency across the board. If you’re ready to see what Proofed can do for you, schedule a call with us.
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