An editorial style guide provides a set of comprehensive language guidelines in one central document. It's meant for all team members and agencies to ensure consistent branding across all published content.
While a brand style guide or playbook is used to define the way a brand looks and how graphics are employed across all publishing platforms, an editorial style guide will include specific rules about the company’s voice (active or passive; first, second or third), tone (formal or informal), and grammar conventions (such as spelling, punctuation, words to avoid and abbreviations)
An editorial style guide not only serves as a tool that sets out what is required for every published piece of work; it is also an effective tool for ensuring brand consistency and customer recognition.
How an editorial style guide benefits your brand
Editors and marketers will use consistent branding to distinguish their product and deliver a unified message to their customers. Over time, these key messages build credibility and trust in the product or business, set expectations about the brand, and establish customer recognition and loyalty. But if the content is written by multiple contributors, all with different writing styles, voices and language, then the messaging can become muddled and inconsistent. This is where an editorial style guide is key. By using one, editors and copywriters can ensure that all published content is consistent, refined, recognisable and engaging. A comprehensive and effective style guide prioritises customers by ensuring a unified voice, consistent use of language and identifiable personality. This helps customers form a real connection with the writing. This will help build brand recognition with your customers.
What to include in your style guide
Establishing an effective style guide can take some time, but it’s worth the investment if you’re committed to your content marketing or publishing strategy. Ideally, an editor will produce a complete style guide. At the ABC, members of the organisation’s language committee regularly meet to discuss matters of grammar, style and usage. The final document is available online.
Putting the time into creating a comprehensive style guide is well worth it in the long run – here are some tips to get you started:
Choose a style manual: Many companies choose to follow a specific, well-known style guide (such as the New Oxford Style Manual or Associated Press Stylebook) as their primary style guide and then tailor an individual house style that is specific to the needs of the company. It is important to spend some time researching the well-known style guides and choose one that fits your business the best.
Words and language: Consider the language that is commonly used in your industry and decide how you want to use it in the context of your brand. As ever, consider your audience’s needs, what words are appropriate and what will resonate with them. Your style guide should also include details such as the abbreviations that are relevant to your company, words to avoid and words to use to engage your reader.
Voice and tone: Include examples of the voice and tone you want to use across all your published content. Think about your audience. Do you want to address them with a casual and playful tone? Or is a formal and informative one more suitable? A style guide should drill down far enough that it will stipulate one word over another i.e.: “members”; not “customers”.
Formatting and punctuation: There should be a section about formatting in your style guide. Include details on how to format bullets, lists, hyphens and quotes.
Once your style guide is complete, make sure it is made accessible and shared with your whole team. It’s a living document that will evolve – and every editor and contributor will need to refer to it when they are writing or editing a piece of work. For this reason, a great place to store your style guide is on a cloud-based share drive or on the team’s intranet.
A style guide is more than just a handy resource. With a strong editorial styled guide in place, made easily accessible for the whole team, you can create consistent and powerful messaging across all your publishing platforms.
If you would like to discuss creating either an editorial style guide or a brand playbook for your brand, don't hesitate to get in touch.
Angela Iaria, intern