You may have heard of a brand style guide. But, have you ever heard of an editorial style guide? 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 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 the investment, regardless of how big or small your business is.
What is an editorial style guide?
Okay, so we touched on it briefly above, but an editorial style guide – also sometimes referred to as a language guide – 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 similarly so you’re creating a consistent customer experience.
Want more? Read, ‘Why Brand Consistency is Key.’
When it comes to developing a brand, there is often a lot of emphasis on the look and aesthetic which is unsurprising considering 65 percent of people tend to be visual learners. However, 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?
An editorial guide 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’re likely to benefit from a more detailed guide.
As for inclusions, you should consider referencing the following:
Consistency is key and when it comes to grammar, individuals often have their own approach to grammar styling. A lot of these nuances aren’t necessarily correct or incorrect, however, it’s important to clearly identify a standard to create a consistent approach.
- When should you use em dash as opposed to commas?
- Where does your punctuation fall in relation to quotation marks?
- Do you use Harvard or APA referencing?
- Do you write the word percent or use the symbol?
- How do you display numbers? Are these written in full in some instances?
Many common words are spelt differently depending on whether you use American or British English. Typically, Australians adopt British English,
While there are differences in spelling, nearly all the words mean the same thing regardless of how they are spelt.
When considering what spelling style to use within your business it’s best to consider your location and that of your audience. Whichever you choose, be consistent across the board, and make sure that all IT programs are set to whichever style you choose as the default.
While British and American English are the most common make sure you do your due diligence when writing for a particular audience as there may be some variations required. Canada for instance prefers British English but does use US spelling at times.
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 the context should be considered. Your brand voice might be light, fun, and playful overall, 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 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 considerable amount of content produced every hour let alone every day, so most people skim-read when they’re online. Large bodies of text make things more challenging to read which is why we see 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 must convey a lot of high-level information at once which means your sentences and paragraphs may be longer.
This is a guideline on links, including how you would like links displayed, how often they should be used, and how to determine whether it is from a credible source.
While the internet is a wonderful thing, anyone can write anything they want so there is a lot of unfounded information available. It’s best to address what link sources you would like your brand to use and which ones to avoid.
This is 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.
Additionally, it’s again important to consider the audience you are writing for. If you are based in Australia like us for example, we have various phrases and slang that Australians often don’t realise are localised language. For example, words like arvo, ankle-biter, ta, pash, or pressie, or phrases like – a cold one, snowed under, or woop woop are unique to Australia and are often not understood by people with other backgrounds.
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 high-quality, on-brand work when it comes to the written word. 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 large part in whether someone chooses your brand over another. Don’t dismiss the importance of the written word and the value it can add to your brand.
If you’d like some help creating an editorial style guide, get in touch,