When it comes to business writing, there are some rules that you must follow if you want to be taken seriously by your target audience. One of the most important rules is consistency. Another thing that goes hand-in-hand with that is style. You must have one for your content and you must follow it religiously.
Create the style guide in the beginning
Your style guide will be an important contributor to the quality of your content. It will be one of your most important roadmaps. Inconsistency says a lot about a person and it not only applies to the content itself but it also applies to other aspects of the person’s business. That is exactly why your style guide (however you choose to set it up) is so important for your business. You style guide will be important for you and your business whether you are working completely by yourself or with other people who are helping you to get your content out there. In either case, your style guide will be important for your because it gives you concrete rules to follow and that makes your job a lot easier.
You should understand that each business’ style guide will be different, although each style guide serves the same purpose. The style points that go into your style guide will apply to your business particularly. It is that simple. So, at this point, you are probably asking yourself exactly how you go about creating a style guide for your business. Well, there are certain elements that should be a part of your style guide and if you set it up properly, it will serve you and your business well for a very long time.
- Include your social media channels in your style guide: This makes logical sense (or, at least, it should to you). Considering that you are writing a style guide for the content that you post on social media, you will need to focus your style guide on them. At the very beginning of your style guide, you will want to have the links to those social media accounts (your profiles on those social media channels) at the very top of the first page. Additionally, you will want to include the contact information for those relevant people who contributed to your ability to write the style guide. With each person who you list in your style guide, make sure that you also state exactly what they do in your organization. This information will help other people to reach out appropriately if they need or want to.
- State what you are trying to accomplish with your style guide: This is an excellent opportunity for you to state clearly why you are posting content on social media channels and interacting with people on a regular basis. Sharing that type of information will help your target audience members to get a clear sense of why you are in business and of how you will be able to help them with whatever they need and want.
- State plainly who your target audience is and why: Your style guide should reflect exactly what your target audience needs and why you are able to give it to them. Your style points will be solid reflections of that concept as well. It should connect with the people who find your style guide relevant and valuable. It is important to keep in mind that your principle focus should be on those target audience members and keeping them satisfied.
- Using your voice: The last thing that you want to do is to make your style guide flat. Just like all of the content that you write and share, your style guide should be a reflection of your brand and of the values that you believe in. That is exactly why your voice is so critical to the success of your style guide. You will want to be careful to use the same voice that you use in all of your writing. That is a part of your brand and that is why other people have become loyal to you and to your business. You should consider your style guide, just like all of your content, as an extension of you.
- Use unique terms that are appropriate for your business and your target audience: Not only should you include the appropriate terminology for your particular business and your target audience but a style guide is meant to keep everyone on the same page and this is where you can give guidance on how everyone can achieve consistency. When it comes to the actual terms, you will want to give guidance on capitalizing terms consistently, using acronyms the same way every time, and which terms should not be used at all.
- The concept of ownership: This concept should be covered in your style guide. It is a very important topic because it is tied into plagiarism to a great degree. You will need to decide exactly how attribution is achieved and make sure that everyone follows that decision.
- Tell people where to find resources: The fact is that you are not the only person who writes and share content. Just like you, other people also use resources to help them to generate topics for their content. Your style guide should suggest sources for that information. It will be very helpful to your target audience.
- Punctuation points: Just like proper grammar, punctuation must also be proper. It there are errors in content, the readers will react to it and it won’t be pretty! You will probably want to choose an established style that is closest to what you are doing and stick with it. If your business has to do with marketing, media, etc., Associated Press or Chicago style probably make the most sense for your business. However, if your business is related to healthcare or is in some way related to medical information, American Medical Association style makes the most sense for your business. Style guides are easily available and it is probably helpful to purchase whichever style guide you decide to follow.
- Guidelines for graphic images: This is another important aspect of your content. You will want to establish guidelines for images as much as the written word. People need guidance on images as much as you do and the guidance will be greatly appreciated.
- Ethics and the legal consideration: Whether you like it or not, it is critical that you address these two in your style guide. You can use the established style guide of choice to guide you. All style guides address these topics and offer guidance that you can include in your style guide.
A style guide is extremely important for your business and your target audience members will appreciate that you have offered them such a comprehensive, clear guide that will improve the quality of their content and allow them to gain confidence that what they are sharing is top quality. Everything you need to allow your business to succeed will be contained in your style guide. Consistency is an extremely important aspect of your content (and, therefore, of your business) and you will want to take it seriously and to make sure that your content is as close to perfect as you can make it every time.
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