Show Your Style: Editorial Style Guides

by | Sep 5, 2015 | Content strategy

There’s fleeting style, and then there’s timeless style.

You content has a style, too, and it’s saying something to everybody who visits.

When we think about style, we often refer to clothes or a haircut or a color preference. But what we really mean is your collective choices and how you consistently apply them. Maybe that shows through crazy socks or big belt buckles; maybe you only wear purple. But the key is you do it often enough that it makes a statement.

Editorial style usually isn’t flashy or crazy, but it does have two things in common with personal style: consistency and the message you project through your choices.

Consistency = trust

Your content should be consistent from page to page across your site. How you spell words, grammatical choices, and capitalization should follow the same rules. This consistency shows your visitors that you care about the quality of your content.

To  encourage consistent usage, you need to create an editorial style guide to share with your writers and editors. The style guide defines which words to use and which grammar rules to follow.

This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. You can start by letting someone do all the heavy lifting for you. Pick an existing style guide, like Chicago Manual of Style or AP Style. Add a dictionary—I like Merriam Webster. Now you’ve addressed 99 percent of the editorial issues you’ll encounter.

Next you want to define where you differ from those guides. For example, do you prefer “health care” or “healthcare”? MD or M.D.? There is no right answer; there’s only a consistent approach.

Sending a message

Beyond being consistent, the usages you choose can brand you as being conservative or modern; trendy or classical. For years, the style guides wanted us to spell web site as two words. The traditionalists followed, while the trendy sites went with websites. Say thing with e-mail versus email.

There is no best usage, but your choice says a lot about whether you adopt trends quickly or slowly—and only you know whether that’s a good thing in the eyes of your audience.

At the beginning of a project, we’ll work with you to develop a style guide if you don’t have one. We’ll customize it based on your audience and brand. It’s your style; we’re here to make sure it’s saying what you want it to about you.