Communicating Lasting Impressions

5 Easy Steps to Create an Editorial Style Guide

<< back

Graphics and editorial style guides are foundational to build brand consistency in PR-marketing content. A previous post on this topic weighed in more heavily on graphics. So, to be fair, it’s time to talk about writing standards.

style guides build consistencyWhether a client says, “Use Associated Press style” or provides us with an editorial style guide, this directive eliminates guesswork in writing. More importantly, it provides the brand consistency that builds familiarity and trust among readers.

One beloved client regularly updates its 20-plus page style guide. Amazingly, in a document this large, it doesn’t always contain the answers. And that brings me to the point that an editorial style guide is not about right or wrong answers, but about creating standards that promote brand consistency.

So if you don’t have an editorial style guide, let me offer these five easy steps to create one.

  1. Determine the industry guidebook, or guidebooks, you will use to address the majority of topics. The Associated Press Stylebook, available in print or as an interactive e-book, is the gold standard for journalists and is frequently used in public relations and marketing communications. When writing your guide, reference the industry guidebook(s) and make clear that your organization’s style guide takes precedence if there is a discrepancy with the selected/reference guidebook.
  1. Brainstorm individually or in a group to list the topics that scream for style consistency. Gather input from prospective users on frequently asked questions about writing standards. Make sure you evaluate your PR-marketing materials, such as brochures, e-newsletters, website content and social media, with a critical eye to determine where inconsistencies exist.

In addition to the previous editorial guidelines, define how to write common terms. For example, maybe you write Scholastic Aptitude Test on first reference and SAT on subsequent references. Consider how to present common phrases. For example, online do you want visitors to “link” to a topic or “select” a menu option?

  1. Consider whether you want to sort your guide alphabetically by topic, like the AP Stylebook, or into sections such as Academics, writing-standardsNames & Titles, Capitalization, Program Names, Technology, etc. With the growth of real-time, online style guides, many organizations find it easiest to organize entries like a dictionary, as in this example from Salt Lake City Schools. Readers simply jump to all topics under the letter A, B, C and so forth. In this way, guide updates on the Web for all employees to access.
  1. Assign one person to write the editorial style guide, using examples when possible. Keep it updated. Encourage all employees to submit topics about writing standards to this individual.
  1. Remember to launch your editorial style guide in a fun way, perhaps with a video that illustrates common errors or terminology. Check out this comical video on Stuff Print People Say.

Need help creating editorial and graphics style guides? Please contact us.