Does Your Business REALLY Need Style Guides?
I was first introduced to style guides in community college where I wrote far too many English and history essays. By the time I reached graduate school, I was adept at using Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) for advanced-level history essays. Now I rely on several guides including the ubiquitous CMOS, the American Press Association Guide and The Canadian Press Stylebook.
What do style guides have to do with your business? Everything. They are roadmaps that provide guidance for all visual and written content that you create. They help maintain consistency across your content and support your brand’s identity.
Let’s briefly explore visual and writing style guides.
Visual Style Guides
You may have had a marketing company help you create your logo, choose business colours and design your website or you may have done this work yourself. Regardless, you will have spent a lot of time making large and small decisions about your brand’s visual representation.
A visual style guide helps you keep track of those decisions and apply them across all visual content. The immediate payoff if that your brand identity is supported and amplified. Imagine that you chose the perfect shade of green for your logo and website colour. The last thing you want is for a new content creator to choose different colours because they don’t have the information they need.
Visual style guides can also include basics such as the font size you use for blog posts and the font type in your logo.
Regardless of how simple or detailed you make your style guide, make sure that everybody who needs it can find it easily.
Writing Style Guides
As a writer and editor, I rely heavily on writing style guides. When I write content for people, I need to know where it will be published. Some magazines specify style guides or have their own in-house guide. Most blogs don’t have style guides (but definitely should!), but the more information I have about your style, the better I’m able to craft compelling content for your business. And, while there isn’t a universal style guide for business proposals or white papers, businesses should create their own.
Why does this matter for you? Because you likely write reports or content every day or hire someone to do it for you. Creating a consistent written message is as important as a consistent visual image – it helps create trust between you and your readers and, like visual style guides, writing guides help maintain your brand identity and voice.
Style guides are especially important if you have more than one content creator. How can you expect multiple creators to maintain your brand’s identity if they don’t have guidelines to work with? This applies for formal reports as well as blog posts – although you may have different style guides for different types of writing or for different audiences.
Creating a style guide can take some work. I recently helped a local organization create a guide for a particular project. I had to research the type of content they posted and help the organizer decide which elements were important for the style guide. I also included visual components like the project’s colours and logo. It’s worth the effort because future work will be consistent and reflect the project’s brand.
Consider developing business style guides that support your brand and voice. If you need help, there are many editors, myself included, who can work with you to decide what to include in your style guides.