Earnsy Liu | October 17, 2022
Think of your favourite coffee shop chain. You love their coffee! No matter where you are in town, you look for their logo whenever you need a caffeine fix.
But what if their logo isn’t always consistent? Sometimes the colours are slightly different. Sometimes the logo appears in a different place in the window. Sometimes the size varies too.
Would that logo still spell quality in the same way? Would you wonder if you’ll get the same delicious coffee each time?
Now think of things your organisation writes, like emails, reports, blog posts, and webpages. Does the writing feel consistent to your customers?
Keeping writing consistent isn’t easy. Bob insists you must never use a comma before ‘and’. He writes his headings entirely in CAPITAL LETTERS, and writes ‘Click here’ when he inserts a link.
Chloe is convinced that using commas before ‘and’ is good. She capitalises the First Letter Of Each Word In Her Headings, and writes descriptive links like this one:
This is how Chloe writes links
And Zac uses commas whenever he feels like it. He capitalises only the First word of his headings. And links? He just copies and pastes them as they are.
Bob, Chloe, and Zac each have their preferences and can’t agree on a style to follow.
Here’s where style guides come in. A style guide is a consistency guide that:
These benefits mean you have more time and energy for the things you care about.
Style guides advise on many aspects of style, including:
A good style guide will also tell you which references to use. For example, which dictionary do you look up for spelling? Which referencing style does your organisation use?
If your organisation has a style guide, you can tailor it to suit your organisation’s preferences and industry. For example, a law firm might say when to use ‘court’ and ‘Court’. A company that works with plants might specify when to italicise plant species and when to use Latin names instead of everyday names.
If you’re afraid that a style guide will hamper individual flair, don’t be. People can follow a style guide and still sound like themselves. Compare these opening sentences from our recent blog posts.
Five voices. One style guide. No constraint.
How do you use a style guide? First, don’t read it! Not from cover to cover anyway.
Skim it. Get a feel for it, so you know what it covers. Highlight or bookmark the sections you’re likely to need regularly. Maybe discuss what it covers in your next team meeting.
Then put the style guide on your desk and refer to it the way you’d refer to a dictionary or an encyclopaedia — when you need guidance. And Bob, Chloe, and Zac can look it up when they next need to capitalise headings or insert links.