Consistency. It’s a deceptively simple concept, and it’s extremely important to successful branding. Consistency should permeate all areas of your brand across all its platforms, both customer facing and internal. And it’s not just about graphic design elements like your logo and fonts and colors; it’s also about written elements, including your brand voice and even the way you apply spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The latter is where creating a writing style guide for your brand comes in.
Creating a writing style guide for your brand takes a little effort up front, but it saves everyone a lot of trouble in the long run. It not only helps ensure consistency in all your copy and content, it also reduces common writing errors that undermine your brand’s trustworthiness and eliminates wondering and debates on how things should be written.
To help you get something in place, below are some of the basic things to address when creating a writing style guide for your brand.
Pick a Reference Style Guide
Obviously, you’re not going to sit around coming up with rules about how to write anything and everything anyone might have to write at some point. Most brands pick one of the existing major style guides as the foundation of their own. These style guides can be referenced for countless rules on how to uniformly tackle specific spelling, punctuation, and grammar questions.
Common Points to Address in Your Brand’s Style Guide
Here are some elements of creating a writing style guide for your brand that are important enough or that come up often enough to make them worth specifically addressing. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, all of these things should definitely be standardized for all your brand copy and content.
- How your brand name is written (which letters are capitalized, where there are spaces, etc.); for example, our agency name is written CREATE180 Design
- How your tag line is written
- How your product or service names are written
- Some guidance on the overall tone you want to strike
- Some guidance on how informal or formal your communications read; there may be differences for different platforms (for example, it’s common for many brands to sound more informal on social media)
- Character count maximums for copy like email subject lines and pre-headers, blog post titles, and other fields where copy gets cut off
- How to capitalize in titles and headlines; for example, address capitalizing prepositions (e.g., you could make a rule about capitalizing all words with a minimum of four letters)
- Whether or not you use a serial comma (also known as an Oxford comma)
- Whether you use periods in abbreviations (for example, OK versus O.K., AKA versus A.K.A., PS versus P.S.)
- How you write times; for example, whether or not to put periods in am and pm, and whether it’s just 10 or 10:00
- How you write dates; for example, spelling it out versus numerals with slashes
- How you write cities and states (e.g., Orlando, Florida versus Orlando, FL)
- How phone numbers are formatted
- What type of dash to use (em dash: – or en dash: -) and whether it has spaces around it
- Whether you hyphenate words like email/e-mail and ecommerce/e-commerce
- How hashtags are capitalized (standalone and when they’re incorporated as part of a sentence)