Style means substance
What is a style guide? And why do you need one? Let Comma Chameleon break it down for you…
What is a style guide?
For copywriters, editors, marketers and designers, a style guide is as integral to the work they do as the computers on which they do it. Whether it’s Specsavers suggesting you ‘should’ve’, or The Guardian insisting there’s no such thing as a ‘climate change denier’, a style guide is made to act as the net through which every piece of a brand’s content is filtered. It’s a bible for a company’s employees, designed to ensure consistency across platforms, build trust with the consumer and solidify brand awareness.
What does a style guide do?
A good style guide will contain rules and guidelines on everything from logo use and colour palette to the type of images used in printed materials and the sort of content shared across social media. At Comma Chameleon, we know how important language is in defining a brand’s identity and helping to keep a company’s message consistent. One of the first questions we’ll ask any prospective client is, ‘Do you have a style guide or style sheet we should use?’ Often, it’s a small business or a sole trader approaching us and they won’t have one. So we’ll put a simple style sheet together for them as we work through their content – this helps us keep the message consistent as we’re working on it, and is a useful reference for the client as they embark on future projects.
[A style guide is] a bible for a company’s employees, designed to ensure consistency across platforms, build trust with the consumer and solidify brand awareness.
Why is a style guide important?
Whether you’re a sole trader with only a Facebook account or a multi-national corporation with a huge suite of marketing materials, a style guide should govern every communication you put out. Every time you communicate with someone, whether it’s over social media, through a pop-up on your website or via your printed materials, you’re showing them who you are and what you’re about.
Everyone wants to be liked and remembered, and as a business, your content is the key to you achieving this. Most people won’t set out to find a brand – they’ll go looking for an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, or a quick and entertaining distraction as they wait for the kettle to boil. Your job is to show them you have the answers they need, the solutions they’re looking for and the content they want.
A style guide is essential in helping you create the type of content you want to be known for, giving you the tools you need to effectively communicate your brand’s personality and ethos, and ensure consistency across platforms, thereby solidifying your brand’s identity.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of consistency. From the words you use to the way you phrase them, consistency is the biggest driver of brand awareness and consumer trust there is. If people know what to expect when they encounter you, they will come to rely on you and, even better, seek you out. They will begin to trust you to deliver what they want – every time. Cultivate this trust, and you’ll be able to build a base of strong relationships.
What should a style guide include?
The core purpose of a style guide is to act as a brand bible that anyone can reference, whether it’s your in-house copywriter or an external editor (like, say, Comma Chameleon, for example). The idea is that anyone should be able to pick up your style guide and know exactly what is required to create a message that is on point and perfectly representative of your brand.
As well as guidelines about logo use, imagery and other design elements, it should give detailed instructions on the use of language, including:
- Voice and tone
- Preferred spellings and punctuation
- Phrases to avoid
- Abbreviations and acronyms
- Hyphenation and capitalization
- Tense preference
- Formatting preferences
These are just a few. A style guide can (and arguably should) be exhaustive, but you can start fairly small. Check out the UK Government’s style guide to see the rules that govern its online communications – it’s pretty thorough, but not too overwhelming.
There’s no denying it can be time consuming putting a complete style guide together, but the payoff will be better, more productive conversations with your customers and a brand name that people recognise, trust, and keep coming back to. And that’s the dream, right?
Need a hand getting started? Check out our top tips for creating your own style guide.
Even better, why not sign up to our mailing list to get a free, editable template? Yeah, we know: we’re spoiling you.
The Comma Chameleon team