Do You Need a Style Guide?

Hands typing on a laptop

This article was written by Taylor Holmes.

Far too many companies overlook the need for a style guide. In the face of writing start-up funding requests, answering emails, finding clients, and putting out fires, a style guide can seem like an unnecessary afterthought.

It shouldn’t be.

A style guide can save you time, money, and reputation.

What is a Style Guide?

It is a clear, concise set of instructions on how your brand is presented. A visual guide may include font colours, typeface, and logo information. Designers often include such guides when they hand over design materials.

But what about written materials?

A copy guide is just as important. It should include the following (and be no more than 4 pages!):

  • Target audience personas: brief description of who you should be writing to
  • Point of view (I vs we vs third person, etc.)
  • Tone (should writing sound formal and corporate, or fun and quirky?)
  • Headings and titles (how they are capitalized and punctuated)
  • Lists (how they are capitalized and punctuated)
  • Abbreviations and contractions (which are allowed, which are not)
  • Specific punctuation (do you use an Oxford comma?)
  • Industry specific words (do you hyphenate “E-book”?)
  • Cultural spelling (do you use American or Canadian spelling of “favour”?)

Why You Need a Style Guide

It will save you time.

A style guide eliminates the constant need for clarification – if you do your own writing, you won’t have to check previous work to see how you did it before. If you hire content writers, you can simply refer them to the guide. Training new employees is a breeze with a style guide.

Using a style guide will also save you time on editing. You won’t have to correct the same mistakes over and over again. (Which will also prevent hair-pulling levels of frustration.)

It will save you money.

All that time you saved means you have more time to do really powerful, direct, income-generating work.

It will preserve your reputation.

Any decent brand strategist will tell you that consistency is key. People need to know what to expect from your brand. If the style and tone of your copy is inconsistent, it will erode your visual brand messaging. Small inconsistencies – like punctuation and abbreviations – are distracting and irksome, and detract from your credibility.

A style guide ensures that any new copy, regardless of who creates it, can seamlessly integrate with your brand’s existing content.

Writing an effective style guide can be a daunting task. But whether you do it yourself, or get a pro to do it, having one can save you from some big headaches.

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