Most international businesses employ a pool of writers to write marketing content for their websites, social media posts, ads, and other written materials aimed at customers and prospects. However, each writer will have their own individual style and writing preferences, which can result in inconsistent brand messaging. Your writers and designers may need to be reined in to ensure that the content they produce corresponds to the way you want your brand to appear to the general public. An essential tool to help produce as much consistency as possible is a style guide.
Why You Need a Style Guide
A style guide is an essential tool that serves to communicate your company’s writing and design standards to everyone involved. Having this document readily to hand as a reference for your business’s expected standards will provide a solid starting point for your writers, designers, and developers. So, let’s explore the key components of a style guide and how they can help your brand.
Company Logo and Any Derivatives
All essential information about your company logo should be contained in the style guide, including: how it should be depicted, allowable color formats, minimum size, size in relationship to other assets (e.g., taglines). The aim should be to maintain the integrity of your brand’s visual identity wherever and however it is used. You should also include any logo treatments that your designers should always avoid.
Fortunately, most grammar rules are unambiguous. However, there are some rules (e.g., starting a sentence with a conjunction) that are matters of preference and inspire passionate debates among writers. Members of your writing team, especially if they’re based in several countries, are likely to favor different options in cases where there may not be a simple right or wrong approach. Your company’s preferences should be recorded in a style guide to help ensure that all written materials reflect them.
- You may find that supplying guidance on certain quirks of punctuation and grammar brings on protests from some members of your editorial team. However, it’s most important to maintain consistency. Whether you opt to make a firm stand against the use of exclamation marks or embrace the Oxford comma, your choices should be made clear to every writer.
Your style guide should address the formatting and vocabulary that you would like to be adopted in your written materials. Without guidance, each writer will tend to do their own thing, and you will end up with lots of variation. One obvious example is the format for dates, which varies around the world. This can be a major issue for customers if they read a date in one format (e.g., 12/11/19) and believe that it refers to November 12th, when, in fact, you mean December 11th.
Typefaces and Fonts
Any desired typefaces in your marketing material and as part of your logo should be included in the style guide, along with their weights. Be sure to list fonts that should be used for different applications such as body copy and titles.
Your writing team needs easy reference points so that you maintain a strong, easily distinguishable voice with your customers. A company lexicon is a vital tool to help maintain consistency with respect to terminology. Your lexicon should include a list of the words that you want your writers to use in order to best convey what your brand is all about. It should also include acceptable and unacceptable synonyms to help your writers vary their language but still stick to the right voice. It’s also useful to compile a list of forbidden words and phrases that convey sentiments that go against your brand voice.
Acronyms and Jargon
Every company develops its own set of acronyms, abbreviations, and insider jargon that become part of everyday language between employees. However, an acronym or a bit of jargon may confuse or even alienate your external audience who are not clued in. Your lexicon should include guidance on when it’s acceptable to use acronyms or jargon. To make life easier, you can even choose to adopt a strict no acronyms or jargon policy in your marketing content.
Your Style Guide and your Brand Voice
Your brand voice guidelines should clearly indicate how you want to communicate with the members of your audience and help them become comfortable and familiar with your voice. An authentic and distinctive voice will differentiate your brand from the brands of your competitors. On a very basic level, your brand voice guidelines should set out how formal or conversational you want to appear. If you have a retail casual clothing business, it may feel natural to start emails with a cheerful Hey guys! However, in a different industry or for a different demographic, such informality could go against a business’s corporate tone and end up irritating or alienating its audience.
- When your brand goes through a redesign, you will need a redesigned style guide to go along with it. It’s the best way to get everyone on-board with your new design guidelines.
Style Guides for Multiple Markets
If you’re creating content for multiple markets, you’ll need a style guide for each language and locale. The one thing that it is most unwise to do is merely to translate your English style guide word for word. Each language comes with its own rules, and words in your lexicon that work well in English could send the wrong message when translated. Your style and brand messaging guides need to be localized by individuals who have high writing standards in the language in question. They also need to be very familiar with the local culture, understand your brand voice, and have the editorial know-how to set out the rules in a way that other writers can easily follow.
Cloud-Based Style Guide
Once you have style guides and brand voice guidelines in place, they can be used to create a set of rules that run in the background of your content management system (CMS). This way, even a new writer will receive alerts if a sentence they’ve written doesn’t comply. The more writers that are involved in your content creation and the more distinctive your brand voice, the more critical it is to have these tools in place. Localize can host your style guides that works to promote and maintain your brand’s voice, this way it is available to any translators for ultimate consistency. Contact us for more information.