How to Create a Writing Style Guide [+Free Guide & Examples]



A writing fashion information is crucial for any enterprise — particularly if there are a number of content material writers on the crew.

As you create increasingly more content material in your web site and weblog, inconsistencies are certain to creep in. One cause? Lack of readability concerning the fashion by which you want to write down in. Disjointed communication throughout the multitude of content material creators in your group generally is a wrongdoer, too.

Both approach, failure to resolve upon accepted editorial tips is a recipe for inconsistent messaging. That is why sooner or later, most corporations might want to develop a writing fashion information.

A writing fashion information signifies the fundamental guidelines of writing everybody agrees to comply with to make sure consistency throughout all content material, like whether or not you need to capitalize the “a” after the colon.

Observe: For those who write content material for HubSpot, you shouldn’t capitalize the “a.”

However wait… if that is the case, why would I capitalize the “If” in that final parenthetical? As a result of “For those who write content material for HubSpot, you need to…” is an entire sentence, thus warranting the capital “If.”

These conventions are laid out in our writing fashion information.

For those who discovered that prepare of thought terribly banal, you would possibly suppose writing fashion guides are probably the most boring issues on the earth and have a burning need to click on away proper about now. Au contraire, mon frère.

Why Writing Guides Are Necessary

A writing fashion information saves you from discovering your self embroiled in a debate about whether or not there ought to be areas earlier than and after an ellipses, whether or not you capitalize “for” in a title, or when a quantity have to be written out in full.

If the writing fashion information bores you, simply think about how insipid that debate can be. The existence of a method information means you possibly can merely have the style guide handy as your little writing rulebook with out having to take a seat by way of debates about blockquotes.

Each guides are completely different in content material however the identical in perform. They play an vital function in how potential shoppers view, work together, and bear in mind your organization.

In an effort that can assist you get began along with your own style guide, this weblog put up will stroll you thru the way to create a writing fashion information and which important parts you’ll want to incorporate.

Earlier than we dive into the vital parts you’ll want to incorporate in your writing fashion information, let’s speak by way of the steps of making one. Your information ought to replicate your online business, its targets, and your target market. To begin, you’ll must:

1. Assessment your model’s mission and values.

Why did you begin your online business? What’s its goal? These are two vital questions that you simply ask your self whenever you begin planning and constructing your organization. For those who didn’t, ask them now. Outline your mission statement. Define your brand’s core values. This info will information the way you kind your connections along with your viewers. It would let you develop an concept for the way you intend to speak with them.

Your model’s mission and values ought to information your choices and be sure that you’re actively working in direction of your objective. They outline and affect company culture by guiding your online business to make choices which are helpful to the corporate and your clients.

It is very important notice that this info can change. In actual fact, it ought to. As time goes on and your organization evolves, it’s essential to evaluate and replace your model mission and values to precisely replicate your present enterprise mannequin and operations.

2. Create purchaser personas to your target market.

To create your writing fashion information, you have to know who you’re speaking to. Think about having one dialog with a child boomer and one other with a millennial. The best way you talk with them will probably be completely different. These nuances converse to the significance of making purchaser personas.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional, research-based illustration of your goal buyer. This info ought to come from market analysis in addition to precise information out of your present clients. When creating your purchaser personas, envision your excellent buyer. What are their days like? How do they make choices? What challenges do they face? In the end, your purchaser persona ought to take a look at buyer demographics, habits patterns, motivations, and targets.

When you establish your target market and their purchaser personas, you’ll have a greater concept of the way to method communication.

3. Outline your organization’s voice and tone.

Establishing your organization’s voice and tone could be difficult as a result of the 2 ideas are simply confused.

Your organization voice is the way you need to be perceived by your viewers. It encompasses how your model messaging can be delivered. Do you need to come throughout as witty or pleasant? For instance, whereas Starbucks’ model voice is expressive, Coca-Cola’s is constructive. When defining your voice, keep in mind that this is not going to change all through your writing. For those who set up your organization as “pleasant,” it ought to be included into your entire messaging.

Though your model voice ought to keep the identical, your tone would possibly change. The model tone refers to how you intend to precise your voice. The subtleties in tone lie fully with who your viewers is. Think about a buddy asks if you wish to be part of them for dinner, and also you reply “Okay.” Cultural cues would probably have them pondering that you simply’re not too eager on attending. Nonetheless, in case you responded with “Undoubtedly!” they may suppose you’re excited to go. Regardless that each responses present that you’re prepared to eat dinner with them, the connotation adjustments between phrases.

As you construct your voice and tone, resolve what emotion you need your writing to tackle. Will or not it’s constructive, impartial, unfavourable, or one thing in between? Once more, your selection ought to mirror your target market.

4. Define branded phrases and phrases.

What are the key phrases and phrases related to your online business? To maintain consistency all through your online business, establish these phrases to your fashion information. This could embody particular spellings and capitalizations.

Take MSNBC for instance. The cable channel has two logos, one with lowercase letters and one other with capitalized letters. Nonetheless, when the channel is written in copy kind, it’s at all times totally capitalized. This might be one thing to notice in a writing fashion information.

This must also carry into any slogans or phrases related along with your firm. For his or her slogan “Betcha can’t eat only one,” Lay’s would want to guarantee that their information specifies the spelling of “Betcha” and that there is no such thing as a ending punctuation. To look cohesive {and professional}, it’s essential to maintain this consistency all through all messaging.

5. Set up tips for formatting.

Along with specializing in what’s written in your fashion information, additionally, you will must concentrate on how it’s written. Your writing fashion information ought to embody tips for:

  • Headers
  • Hyperlinks
  • Daring, italicized, and common textual content
  • Bullet factors versus numbered lists

Formatting will permit your readers to skim and digest your content material rapidly. As well as, as they turn into acquainted along with your fashion, they may come to anticipate your organization’s organizational breakdown. Each enterprise has the autonomy to decide on the way it codecs its content material. Be sure you develop a format that flows successfully to your readers.

6. Use a style guide template.

how to create a writing style guide: hubspot template

Download Your Free Starter Template

As you’re employed by way of the above steps to construct your writing fashion information, you would possibly draw a clean on the way to format it. Use a template. Many corporations have their fashion guides accessible to the general public. Discover a firm that you simply’d prefer to emulate, use them as a place to begin, and customise the information till it turns into a illustration of your online business. See the “Writing Type Information Examples” part under for fashion guides from corporations like Mailchimp, Google, and NASA.

What to Embrace in Your Writing Type Information

There are a number of key sections to incorporate in your fashion information.

1. Type Handbook

Type manuals are reference books that inform writers the way to deal with grammar, punctuation, and any particular use circumstances. Most companies undertake both the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style. It is as much as you to resolve which handbook you want your organization to comply with.

what to include in writing style guide: style manual

You should buy on-line subscriptions to those manuals to your staff to reference, the login for which you must also embody on this part of the editorial fashion information to make entry easy. You would possibly discover staff usually tend to reference these instruments when supplied with an internet subscription that comprises a search perform as a substitute of a paper e-book by way of which they must flip to search out their solutions.

Whereas these fashion guides present a superb reference level for primary grammar guidelines, you will in all probability need to make some exceptions to the foundations for the sake of branding, tone, and magnificence.

Use this part of your editorial fashion information to stipulate these exceptions and in addition to spotlight among the guidelines that generally come up when writing to your firm. Ideally, your writers would commit these guidelines to reminiscence, no matter whether or not it’s aligned with or towards home fashion. For instance:

  • What do you capitalize? Do you capitalize the title of your product? Are there sure prepositions you need capitalized in your title regardless of your stylebook’s suggestions?
  • What do you abbreviate? How do you punctuate these abbreviations? Would you sort “a.ok.a.” or “aka”? “Okay” or “O.Okay.”? Or “OK”?
  • Do you utilize an Oxford comma?

Itemizing solutions to widespread questions like these within the first a part of your editorial fashion information will give individuals a straightforward useful resource to reference that can prevent time and encourage consistency. Be at liberty to proceed including to this listing as extra confusions come up and get resolved through the content creation process. You are creating your individual fashion information, so be happy to borrow completely different guidelines from completely different fashion guides. The vital factor is that you simply use the identical guidelines constantly all through all of the content material you create.

2. Generally Troublesome Phrases

what to include in writing style guide: troublesome words

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Most corporations have terminology that is particular to their business, and never all of these terminologies have a universally agreed-upon spelling. As an illustration, in case you write quite a bit about digital advertising like we do right here at HubSpot, you will discover a whole lot of inconsistency across the spelling and capitalization of phrases like these:

  • e book vs. Book vs. e-book
  • ecommerve vs. e-commerce
  • web vs. Web
  • web site vs. website online
  • Fb Like vs. Fb like
  • Retweet vs. re-tweet vs. reTweet vs. ReTweet

As a substitute of debating the way to spell, capitalize, or hyphenate these phrases, embody a piece in your fashion information known as “Generally Troublesome Phrases” so writers can simply search for the right spelling of those phrases in response to your home fashion information.

Recommendation for International Corporations

You probably have international readership and create content material for particular, same-language markets, you need to embody notes on whether or not you alter spelling for these markets or retain your home fashion.

For instance, if entrepreneurs from HubSpot’s Dublin workplace write a weblog put up, ought to American editors change their spelling of “favour” to “favor”? “Internationalise” to “Internationalize”? These questions ought to be answered in your fashion information, and the “Generally Troublesome Phrases” part is a logical location to try this.

Equally, in case you are creating content material in numerous languages, fashion guides ought to be created for every language.

3. Voice and Tone

what to include in writing style guide: voice and toneImage Source

This part of the editorial fashion information ought to deal with one thing much less concrete than grammar guidelines however arguably extra vital, and that’s how your content material ought to sound to the reader.

Can writers use the primary individual? How do you are feeling about the usage of business jargon? Take into consideration the phrases you’ll use to explain your content material in a great world. Which adjectives would you like your content material to evoke? Conversational, instructional, educational, humorous, controversial, or goal?

You would possibly suppose you need your content material to be all the above, however pressure your self to prioritize just some. Clarify why it is vital to realize this fashion and tone in your content material, and supply examples of content material (excerpts are fantastic) which are profitable in doing so, notably if these excerpts exist by yourself web site already.

If there are stylistic traits your content material completely mustn’t have, embody that info, too. Once more, examples of what to not do are useful right here for the sake of comparative illustration.

When deciding on fashion and tone, you should definitely take into account your target market and purchaser personas within the course of. Which fashion and tone would resonate greatest with them? This brings us to our subsequent part.

4. Personas

what to include in a style guide: buyer personas

Buyer personas are inextricably tied to fashion and tone, so it is vital to incorporate this part both earlier than or after the “Type and Tone” part of your fashion information. Why is it so vital to incorporate personas? As a result of the fashion and tone you undertake ought to be knowledgeable by your target market, i.e. the those who can be studying all these things you are writing.

That being mentioned, the personas in your editorial fashion information needn’t go as in-depth because the personas created by your sales and marketing teams. (These would possibly embody detailed info like objections that come up within the gross sales course of and the way to overcome them, or tips about figuring out these personas “within the wild” or whenever you get them on the telephone.)

The personas in your editorial fashion information ought to be extra temporary, merely pulling out the highlights that concisely clarify who your target market is, their ache factors, how they prefer to be communicated with, the worth your organization gives, and an image to provide writers a visible to remember when creating content material.

Together with personas in your fashion information actually is useful whenever you’re working with freelance writers. For those who’re doing a superb job with freelance author administration, you will present ample context to tell the content material they’re writing. A persona, and the way that informs tone and writing fashion, ought to at all times be included when kicking off a brand new freelance author challenge.

5. Graphics and Formatting

what to include in writing style guide: formatting

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I do know, I instructed you earlier to not get into the nitty-gritty with visible tips. That is nonetheless true. Your design crew or company ought to create a separate brand design style guide that addresses extra nuanced visible issues. (Are you able to inform I am not a designer?)

It’s best to, nonetheless, add slightly info to your written fashion information in case your writers are ever accountable for creating visible belongings and/or copyediting visible belongings created by designers. Listed below are some widespread questions that will come up that can impression writers or editors:

  • The place can writers supply photos, and the way do they correctly attribute them?
  • When ought to photos align to the suitable, to the left, or within the heart?
  • Ought to textual content wrap round photos?
  • What are the RGB and hex codes to your textual content and headers?
  • What typefaces can be utilized?
  • Can writers use italics, daring, or underlining? If that’s the case, is utilization restricted to sure events, like bolding headers and hyperlinks?
  • Which form of bullets ought to be used (sq., spherical, or different), and the way ought to they align with the remainder of the textual content?
  • How ought to numbered lists seem: “1”, “1.” or “1.)”?

Many of those graphical parts could be current in your content material administration system, however they are often simply overridden when writers copy and paste content material from elsewhere with formatting connected, or by an overzealous author with a aptitude for design. Define these expectations in your editorial fashion information, and refer these with extra superior must your model fashion information.

6. Accredited and Unapproved Content material

Nice content material typically cites analysis and information from third occasion sources. Make your author’s job simpler by offering accredited business assets from which they’ll draw, and much more importantly, assets from which they can’t draw. Break up this part of your editorial fashion information into two sections: really useful and accredited business assets, and “don’t point out” assets.

The data within the “don’t point out” part ought to embody opponents and unreliable assets, and it must also point out controversial subjects and opinions that ought to be prevented in any respect prices. For instance, many corporations strictly prohibit any point out of politics or faith of their content material, or have provisions that specify when it’s acceptable to incorporate and the way to body the dialogue. Equally, many corporations work inside sure authorized restrictions, by which case this part of the fashion information would possibly present directions for receiving authorized approval earlier than publishing a bit of content material.

That is the part of your editorial fashion information to elucidate the intricacies of such controversies as they relate to your model so you possibly can stop reputation management catastrophes.

7. Sourcing

what to include in writing style guide: sourcing guidelines

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With nice analysis comes nice accountability… and a whole lot of decisions, sadly. Clear up the confusion round the way to correctly cite analysis by deciding on one methodology and documenting it in your editorial fashion information. Clarify the way to create footnotes, references, hyperlinks to exterior websites, and even bibliographies if they’re related to your organization.

This part of your editorial fashion information does not should be lengthy. Simply write down the foundations and supply some examples of correct citations so writers can simply attribute their sources correctly.

8. Examples to Present What’s Proper and Unsuitable

what to include in writing style guide: right vs wrong examplesImage Source

Each part of your editorial fashion information can profit from actual life examples of the ideas you are explaining, whether or not you embody these examples on the identical web page or as an appendix on the finish of the information.

For instance, when speaking about correct formatting, embody a visible instance of a well-formatted weblog put up with callouts that element why the weather are profitable. For those who’re discussing grammar utilization, present an incorrect instance, after which mark it as much as present how a author might repair it to align along with your editorial fashion information.

Bridging your necessities with correct executions out of your precise web site will assist illustrate these ideas extra clearly and minimize down on follow-up questions and cases of exceptions to the foundations you’ve got laid out.

What To not Embrace In Your Type Information

It may be tempting to create probably the most complete fashion information of all time. However when paperwork get extremely lengthy, it may turn into slightly exhausting to make use of on a day-to-day foundation. Intention for “complete, but usable” by deliberately chopping some sections. Widespread sections you need to omit out of your fashion information embody:

Content material Operation Notes

Whereas content material operations are the spine of your content material creation course of, detailed info on the processes shouldn’t be included in a writing fashion information. The motion of submitting content material to your editorial crew is an irreplaceable step in getting content material printed; nonetheless, this doesn’t add worth to the fashion your writers will use in creating. Extra content material operation notes that may be ignored of your fashion information embody requesting slots on the editorial calendar or revision cycles.

Minor Visible Type Suggestions

Many groups fail to appreciate {that a} model’s emblem can have an effect on search engine optimization. For many who know this info, you could be tempted to incorporate guidelines round emblem utilization or different visible fashion information parts in your writing fashion information. Don’t. With some primary exceptions, these can be saved for a separate model or visible fashion information.

Design Components

As beforehand talked about, writing fashion guides have little to do with the visible design parts of the model. They have an effect on how the writing seems to be, however they don’t serve your writers as they create. The next design parts ought to be ignored of your writing fashion information.


This part lists the fonts your model will use and the place they are often accessed. Typography sections additionally present detailed info on when and the place to make use of completely different fonts, in addition to acceptable sizes and variations.

Emblem & Variations

As vital as your emblem is to your model identification, it holds little to no significance within the eyes of your writers. Offering a picture of your emblem to your writers could assist them join with the feel and appear of the model; nonetheless, further particulars about variations and when to make use of them on print or digital content material is inconsequential.

Shade Palette

When selecting model colours, they usually align with the texture of the model. Vibrant colours are used to represent ‘blissful’ or ‘recent’ manufacturers, whereas darker colours could make a model appear bolder and extra daring. Whereas the colour palette may help solidify the tone of the model to the author, it’s nonetheless pointless. The whole lot they should know ought to be expressed whenever you outline your organization’s voice and tone.

Your editorial fashion information will merely information writers by offering a set of requirements to which they need to adhere when creating content material to your web site. It eliminates confusion, guesswork, and debates over what boils all the way down to a matter of editorial opinion amongst grammar and content material geeks.

For those who’re ever uncertain whether or not one thing ought to or mustn’t exist in your written fashion information, fall again on utilization to tell your choice. If it is too lengthy to be usable, minimize it down; if it is too quick to reply the commonest questions, beef it up.

Methods to Get Others to Use Your Type Information

For those who put in all this work to create a complete fashion information, it would be an actual bummer if nobody used it.

This is the reality: Some individuals simply aren’t going to make use of it, irrespective of how straightforward you make it for them to take action. So, simply settle for that. However after you are finished grieving, there are some things you are able to do to extend the chance of adoption:

1. Contain different individuals in its creation from the get-go.

As a substitute of mandating the foundations your total firm should use when writing, get a number of individuals collectively to assist create the fashion information as a bunch. Ideally, this little committee will span a couple of division to extend the chance of widespread adoption.

2. Make it straightforward to search out and use.

Our fashion information is out there on our inside repository, so it is easy for individuals to search out, bookmark, and Ctrl+F to get solutions to questions rapidly. Make yours equally straightforward to entry and use.

3. Maintain updating it.

Your fashion information is meant to be a dwelling doc. As new questions come up, make it straightforward for writers to ask questions on correct utilization and get a decision, and guarantee that decision is mirrored in an up to date model of the fashion information.

Writing Type Information Examples

If you wish to see a writing fashion information in motion, take a look at the examples under from well-known corporations like Apple, Shopify, and Intuit.

1. Google

writing style guide examples: google

In Google’s fashion information, they’re very specific with its precept to create clear, correct, concise textual content. The corporate presents clear directives to write down merely and straight, deal with customers clearly, and extra.

Additionally they skillfully reveal examples of what staff ought to and mustn’t do. For instance, as a substitute of claiming, “Seek the advice of the documentation that got here along with your telephone for additional directions,” their writers ought to write one thing just like “Learn the directions that got here along with your telephone.” With this information, Google ensures that its textual content is inclusive to anybody, no matter their cultural or language variations.

2. Intuit

writing style guide examples: intuit

You probably acknowledge Intuit for applications like TurboTax and Quickbooks. Whereas some corporations have their writing fashion information formatted as a proper doc, Intuit takes a distinct method. Their information seems as a message board.

On considered one of their most up-to-date updates, they shared new tips on when and the way to have fun buyer wins. As you scroll by way of their information, you will see voice and tone examples, thesaurus updates, and rules on the way to establish and substitute dangerous language.

3. Shopify

writing style guide examples: shopify

The eCommerce platform, Shopify, has an in depth content material fashion information that walks its writers by way of voice and tone, accessible and inclusive language, grammar and mechanics, and naming. Because it elaborates on its voice tips, it reminds writers that when talking as Shopify’s voice, they need to “be actual, however not too powerful or overly acquainted.”

It directs writers to be proactive with out being pushy by providing their clients honest encouragement and sensible recommendation. Along with these tips, Shopify has created an inventory of acceptable vocabulary and abbreviations to make sure its messaging is constant and clear for its retailers.

4. Microsoft

writing style guide examples: microsoft

Heat and relaxed, crisp and clear, and able to assist: That’s Microsoft’s method to writing for its clients. Microsoft is one other firm with a distinct tackle the way it presents its writing fashion information. With one webpage on the heart, it hyperlinks out to helpful info, together with its “High 10 ideas for mastering Microsoft fashion and voice.”

The web page lists different really useful content material, resembling info on bias-free communication and directives on the way to write step-by-step directions. Whether or not the content material is for an app, web site, or white paper, this information retains all Microsoft communication clear, concise, and constant.

5. Apple

writing style guide examples: apple

In Apple’s writing fashion information, they instantly categorical their mission. Reflecting on the range of its clients, they stress the aim of the information — to write down consciously and inclusively.

The setup that Apple makes use of can be very on-brand. Its fashion information has “earlier’ and “subsequent” buttons, which mimics a step-by-step tutorial that one is aware of in the event that they’re acquainted with Apple merchandise. Apple additionally encourages its writers to return for updates. Writing adjustments over time, so its writers must adapt to the adjustments Apple makes to its writing fashion information as they occur.

6. Mailchimp

writing style guide examples: mailchimp

Writing copy for a model could be complicated. As you turn between media, there are particular nuances that you simply might need to keep in mind. Mailchimp does an ideal job breaking down these elements in its fashion information. It contains rules for writing technical content material, authorized content material, electronic mail newsletters, and social media.

To facilitate the method for its writers, the Mailchimp content material fashion information has a hyperlinked part that permits customers to rapidly navigate by way of the webpage.


writing style guide examples: nasa

The Nationwide Aeronautics and Area Administration (NASA) is thought for the complexities of outer area. In its fashion information, it mentions that its goal is to be constant in its writing fashion and utilization, so its readers keep away from distraction from complicated phrases and ideas.

The information directs its writers to make use of The Chicago Handbook of Type but in addition gives particular subjects, together with an summary of their editorial fashion in addition to sections on gender-specific language, abbreviations, and figures and tables.

8. Yokel Local

writing style guide examples: yokel local

This instance comes from HubSpot Companion Yokel Native. Their writing fashion information retains each their in-house contributors and their freelancers on the identical web page when writing and modifying advertising content material for shoppers.

You may discover that they did not go too far within the weeds, both. The entire information is 15 pages in massive, engaging lettering, and something not explicitly said within the information is left as much as the AP Stylebook and the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The simplicity is efficient, they usually clearly had enjoyable designing the doc to be cohesive with their model tips.

Polish Your Editorial and Content material Type

On the subject of operating your online business, you would possibly assume that your phrases maintain little weight when in comparison with your services or products. You’d be mistaken. Whereas your merchandise are central to your online business, the way you share info — the phrases you utilize — is crucial to gaining new clients and sustaining present ones.

Consistency is a vital consider managing a profitable enterprise. With a writing fashion information, you’ll lower inconsistent content material and communication. You’ll equip your crew with the instruments and assets to ship a robust, cohesive message that pulls in your target market. As you’re employed to create or polish your writing fashion information, this text will function your information to get there.

Editor’s notice: This put up was initially printed in Might 2015 and has been up to date for comprehensiveness.

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