Streamline your content creation with a style guide

Time is precious as a business owner, so a few minutes saved here and there each time you create content is worthwhile. Say hello to the style guide.
This post will explain what a style guide is and how to use it to:
  • save you time and money
  • make outsourcing work for you
  • help your audience connect with you


What is a style guide?

A style guide (also known as a style sheet) gives clarity and consistency to those writing and editing content for your business. If you’re a sole trader, a style guide is your loyal companion for keeping your writing consistent and the proofreading process pain-free. It clarifies preferences for spelling, grammar and punctuation and may also consider your business’ voice, branding and style preferences. Let’s look at each of these in turn.


Words are powerful

Spelling preferences might include regional or dialect conventions, for instance whether you are using colour or color, organise or organize. Your business may use words or terms that can be written in different ways. Being consistent with these spellings is important for your branding voice. A common example here is elearning, e-learning or eLearning. None of these is more correct than the others, but it is important to pick a style and use it consistently.
Use, or avoidance, of certain terms may be defined in your style guide too. This will depend on your audience and your messaging, for instance global warming is a widely used term, but many people are now advocating for the term climate change or crisis. Using inclusive language is another important point you may wish to highlight in your style guide.


Keep it simple

Grammar and punctuation in your style guide doesn’t have to be complex. It could be as simple as choosing single or double quotation marks or deciding whether you punctuate abbreviations: USA or U.S.A. Little things that you may not give much thought to, but they jump out at readers when they are inconsistent and this draws attention away from your messaging.


Who are you?

Your company voice is important here. You know who your readers are and which words, phrases and tones will appeal to them and make them want to buy from you. Phrases that you want to encourage or discourage can also be included in your style guide.


I like your style!

Finally, what is your styling like? What font type and size do you use for your headings? Do you use title case or sentence case? How do you punctuate your bullet points? What about the colours and formatting you use as part of your branding? Are all these elements applied consistently across your communications and website? If not, they should be. No doubt you’ve spent a lot of energy (and money) getting clear on your branding. Don’t waste that – promote it!


What’s in it for you?

When you have a style guide, everyone contributing to your content and communication will be clear on the rules. Writing, editing and proofreading become more streamlined (saving you time and money), and your audience is happy because your content is a joy to read. They trust you because your content is solid and reliable, and they want to engage with you as a result.


I’m in!

Now I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that having a style guide is totally worthwhile, here’s how you can create one.
  1. Simply make a note of your preferences as mentioned above
  2. Organise them into categories such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting and voice (use as many of these categories as you want)
  3. Next, read through your writing and note any additional preferences (using the Find tool can come in handy here when looking for inconsistencies)
  4. Boom! You’re done! Now just keep this handy for whenever you write or proofread your content

And if you don’t fancy doing this yourself, I have a handy little template for you – for free!

It’s pretty, and you can edit it to make it completely relevant for you and your business. So what are you waiting for? Follow this link for your template in exchange for your email address. I hate spam, so you’ll only receive value from me. My newsletter is monthly.

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