One of the hardest things to maintain on a website is a single identity. When a copywriter writes headline copy and another person writes a blog post, and a third updates your home page, the site is bound to end up looking like a web version of Frankenstein unless you take precautions.
Not having a clear method as to how your website appears and how content is written contributes to confusion for customers entering your site. Thankfully, there’s a way to merge your website’s multiple personalities into one – Create and implement a style guide.
A style guide is important for anyone who writes copy. And that means any sort of copy – company descriptions, blog posts, product details, headlines, and more. While most companies have pages and pages of text floating on their websites and in-store brochures, some of the ways the text is written might not be consistent. And with all the different writing styles from various authors, the inconsistencies in punctuation, grammar, and form can turn any nicely packaged piece into a disaster.
So how can you fix it? Keep reading for tips to prevent your copy from splitting your brand.
A style guide is a physical or online book that contains rules for grammar, punctuation, and form. Typically, a style guide contains information about commonly misused or questioned words, phrases, or structure that someone new to a company would be unfamiliar with. In essence, it provides a resource to workers of any business so that the workers can know company-specific style as well as general language rules.
Style guides come in many lengths, and some companies might even have multiple style guides. However, the size and number of style guides is reliant upon the size of the company. Large corporations might need shorter department-specific guides in addition to a general language guide. Smaller businesses might only need one style guide with both company and general guides combined into one book.
As for the length of a style guide, Intelligent Editing suggests that “a good style guide is no more than four pages.” Concise guides are less daunting to workers not as skilled at editing. Of course, don’t limit your style guide to only four pages if you need to explain more concepts. Four pages is only a suggestion. But if you have editors specifically in charge of editing for style, you’ll want a larger book to cover any question that might occur.
For the most part, a style guide is needed to prevent confusion and inconsistencies across a company. When customers and potential customers come across your site or store, they want to see a consistent theme throughout. Similar styles define a brand’s true identity and let your customers know who they are buying from.
To prevent multiple personalities, your company needs to have a constant style for copy, design, and branded items. While your customers might not be consciously looking to see if you always use an Oxford comma, they will notice if the tone, style, and appearance of your copy differ. Of course, it will be more prevalent to a viewer if your brand and images are not uniform, but they’ll still know that something isn’t right if your text varies across the company.
The benefits of a single brand identity
A style guide is beneficial to your company and your customers, and there are six reasons why. To help you remember the most important points, think of the benefits as the five Cs and one T of text uniformity.
By providing the same message, image, and style to consumers, your company effectively avoids confusing consumers. If your company keeps changing its appearance or way it presents items, your customers might be wondering if it’s the same company that they used to know. So implementing a style book that promotes consistency improves the promotion and identification of brands to consumers.
Who wants to engage in a company if you can’t understand half of the things that the company is telling you? Avoid miscommunication by implementing a style guide that defines how to explain and style copy. Writing the same message or tagline two different ways will only confuse customers, so stick to a guide that helps you formulate phrases that make sense to your customers.
In addition, a clear, concise guide helps employees understand what is being said in the company style guide. Who would want to use a style guide if you can’t even understand it?
Adhering to a style guide, for the most part, ensures that there will not be any mistakes or inconsistencies. Of course, an employee might make an error once in a while, so always have multiple people review the same material. Some people are more prone to keying in on specific words and phrases that are commonly misused while others notice different words.
By being consistent, your company exudes a credible image so that your customers value your opinion and believe it. Errors and inconsistencies only cause doubt, so follow your style book and let others review your work.
Using a style book and following it shows that you’re serious about the information you’re providing consumers. Quality content expressed in an understandable way shows your customers that you’re professional and competent on the subject.
Implementing a style book and providing it to all your employees will reduce costs of training people on the company style. In addition, fewer proofreaders will need to double check content before publication because all of the employees creating the content have access to the style book. If all the creators of content adhere to the style guide, less time can be put toward correcting errors and more time toward other tasks, such as creating more content.
In addition to a style guide being cost-effective, a guide also saves companies money by not having as many employees go back and correct mistakes that others made. If the original source of content creation followed the style guide, fewer style mistakes would be made. Plus, having a resource available to answer most questions a content creator has reduces the time spent looking up the answer. Most questions can be answered by looking in the company and/or department-specific style book.
Remedies for your brand
Some of the most common style guides for language and formatting are Associated Press, Modern Language Association, Chicago Manual of Style, and American Psychological Association. However, there are many other style guides available to use. Review the rules of each style to determine which suits your company best. Of course, some styles fit well with certain fields. For instance, AP style works best with news and publications while APA best suits fields within the social sciences. The closer your company matches the field the style guide is suited for, the more likely you should choose it.
Many companies incorporate brand, design, and web style guides in addition to a style guide. Brand style guides include anything related to the company’s logo, slogan, and colors while design guides explain typefaces, font sizes, indentation, headlines, image sizes, and more. And web style guides emphasize visitors’ readability and usability of the site on both desktop and mobile. Each of these three should be separate style guides for each of the corresponding departments.
Knowing why an alter ego can be damaging
With more efforts focused on content marketing, more firms are producing blog posts, infographics, videos, and more. That means more content is being produced by multiple individuals. Without a style guide, each of the creators of content will follow his or her own rules of style, language or design. By not having standards for all the content creators to follow, your brand will not appear professional or consistent. So having a style guide easily available to all workers in your company will help streamline the process to ensure that all content produced is coherent and uniform.