What is an Editorial Style Guide and Why Should You Invest in One?

editorial style guide

So, you may have heard of a brand style guide before, but have you ever heard of an editorial style guide? Just like an overall brand style guide, an editorial style guide is a comprehensive document that collates and outlines the language associated with your brand as well as standards for grammar, spelling, sentence structure and your tone of voice. The goal of any style guide – design or editorial, is to create and encourage a consistent, high-quality approach to your brand. In this blog, we explore editorial style guides in detail and discuss why you should consider investing in one, regardless of how big or small your business is.

What is an editorial style guide? Tell me more!

Okay, so we touched on it briefly above, but an editorial style guide – also referred to as a language guide sometimes – is a central document that anyone involved with your brand can reference.

It guides anything related to the written word and is a proactive measure to ensure everyone involved with the brand is on the same page. If you’re fortunate enough to have multiple people who communicate on behalf of your brand, you want to ensure that they are communicating in a similar manner so you’re creating a consistent customer experience.

Want more? Read, ‘Why Brand Consistency is Key.’

When it comes to developing a brand, there’s often a lot of emphasis on the look and aesthetic which Is unsurprising considering 65 percent of people tend to be visual learners. But that doesn’t mean that the written word shouldn’t have the same focus or consideration as a photo, logo, or graphic might. These elements combined are what create a strong, unique brand.

What should I include?

This can be as simple or comprehensive as you like! If you have a small team, it’s best to keep your document to a few pages. However, if you’re part of a large multinational business, for example, the risks and stakes are higher and there are far more people involved. In this instance, you’ll most likely want to cover all bases and go into more detail.

As for inclusions, you’ll likely want to cover off:

Grammar

A guideline as to how you would like to approach grammar. For example, when do you use em dash as opposed to commas? Where does your punctuation fall in relation to quotation marks?

Spelling

How do you approach language? For example, do you use American or British spelling? Typically, is best to consider both where you are located and where a majority of your audience is located when making this decision. Whichever you choose, be consistent.

Your brand voice and tone

Your brand voice represents your brand’s unique perspective and the values you stand for – your voice is stable. While it might evolve, it is relatively unchanging. Think of your brand voice as the personality of your brand. It’s the way you communicate with people.

On the other hand, your tone is the way you express your personality. It’s how you say things and the order of your words. You may use different tones to build a connection with varying audiences. This is when context also comes into play. Your brand voice might overall be light, fun and playful, but in times of crisis or a potentially serious situation like a global pandemic, for instance, your tone needs to reflect the seriousness of the message. 

Sentence structure and paragraph length

Guiding how you would like your sentences and paragraphs displayed depends often on the context of the writing.

If you’re writing for things like social media captions or blogs, you may be more likely to tailor both your sentences and paragraphs to be shorter and more succinct. There’s a crazy amount of content coming out every hour let alone every day, so most people skim read when they’re online. Large bodies of text make things harder to read which is why we are seeing more and more publications, even news sites, adopt 1-2 sentence paragraphs.

However, context is essential. If you’re writing academically or for a formal report, you often have to convey a lot of high-level information at once which means that both your sentences and paragraphs may be longer. 

Links

This is a guideline on all things links, from how you would like them displayed, how often links should be used and how to determine whether something is a credible source.

While the internet is a wonderful thing, anyone can write anything they want so there is a lot of unfounded information floating about. It’s best to address what kinds of links you would like your brand to use and which ones to avoid.

Formatting

More of a guide as to how you would like your copy to appear visually, formatting can relate to the paragraph length which we’ve addressed above. It can also direct text styling, for example when to use bold or underline, how to use bullet points and which ones to use as well as text indenting and alignment.

Jargon and terminology

Each industry has a range of unique terms and acronyms that the typical person may not be familiar with or understand. Listing and defining frequently used terms in a central document will help anyone involved with your brand to quickly understand the lingo.

So, there you have it, a topline view of what should be included in your editorial style guide. The goal is to make sure you’re continuously producing a high quality of on-brand work when it comes to the written word. We know that in most industries, there is a wealth of competition that your audience can choose from. While price and quality play a role, defining your brand and communicating what you stand for plays a big part in whether someone chooses your brand over another. Don’t dismiss the importance of the written word and the value it can have on your brand! If you’d like some help creating your very own editorial style guide, get in touch,

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