CIA Style Guide

According to a report by digital marketing software developers Hubspot, businesses that commit to blogging receive 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads than those that do not. It’s therefore safe to say that your business needs a blog. But does your blog need a style guide?

A style guide is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents. They contain a set of stylistic guidelines intended to improve communication, and enforce best practice in terms of language composition, spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, and typography.

Depending on the sector, a style guide may also contain information about technical terminology, ethical issues, compliance, and how best to use images.

Style guides are generally written to apply to every document a business produces – whether they are reports, marketing materials, emails, or internal communications. Obviously, compiling such a style guide would be a huge undertaking, and would require extensive consultations with representatives from every aspect of your business in order to ensure that all of the included guidelines truly are representative of best practice.

Such an extensive style guide would hugely benefit both internal and external communication, but not every business would be prepared to invest the time and resources necessary to compile it. However, in order to make the most from your content marketing strategy, it might be a good idea to compile a smaller, more dedicated style guide for your company blog.

Does Your Blog Need a Style Guide?

Your company blog is a highly effective marketing tool with which you can share news and success stories in order to build a positive brand identity. If your business commits to regular blogging, you can create the sort of high-quality, keyword rich content that improves search engine rankings, gets shared on social media, and generates inbound links to your website. With a style guide in place to enforce best practice and consistency, you can ensure that your blog is as effective as it can possibly be.

In the long run, a style guide can even help you to save time and resources. Should any of your contributors ever have any questions about preferred style, you’ll instantly be able to point them to a solution. This will prove particularly useful should you ever bring in new staff, or should the blogging responsibilities shift from one employee to another.

How To Write A Style Guide

You should already have strong ideas about your brand’s voice, and how you want it to be communicated. You should therefore already have a vague idea of the various Do’s and Don’ts that all of your company representatives should bear in mind when communicating your brand. You might therefore find that writing a style guide comes easy to you. All you have to do is make these unwritten rules written.

But if not, here’s a few things to bear in mind:

  • Few people will read your style guide in full. Most people will use it as a point of reference, to be consulted only when a question or a problem arises. You should therefore endeavour to make your style guide easy to navigate. Include a contents page, alphabetise your tips, and try to keep things as short and to the point as you can.
  • Remember to be flexible. As the Guardian say in their style guide, “we aim for coherence and consistency, but not at the expense of clarity. It is impossible to be wholly consistent. There are almost always exceptions.”
  • Don’t try to be exhaustive. Instead, use your guide to communicate the most important things for your reader to remember. For example, the correct placement of commas probably isn’t as important as the correct way to abbreviate your company’s name.
  • Allow your style guide to evolve and grow. Involve as many people you can in its creation, and let everyone know that your style guide is an open document that can be updated by anyone at any time. Request regular feedback, and take on board any comments you receive.

If you’re unsure where to start, many organisations and publications have made their style guides publicly available online. It might be useful to read through their guidelines and consider which ones are applicable to your business, and your sector. Here are four of the best:

Each of the above contains an extensive list of guidelines designed to encourage effective communication with the use of clear and concise language. All businesses, regardless of sector, could stand to benefit from more effective communication, so these guidelines are arguably an excellent point of reference for everyone.

Does your business make use of a style guide? If so, what does it include, and how did you come to compile it?

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