A style guide is an asset to your brand and voice, no matter how big or small your organization is. By setting a standard for every single piece of content on your website and internal/external documents, you can ensure everyone’s tone of voice is on the same page. A style guide should include aspects such as grammar, formatting, tone, correct word usage, best writing practices, and more to help keep your content in check.
Since a style guide is crucial to your brand and voice, it is just as crucial that people in your organization are actually following it. But ensuring people are following guidelines can be challenging. Here are five tips to ensure you, your team, and your organization stay on track with your style guide:
1. Make Sure Every Single Employee is Aware a Style Guide Exists
While marketing and content contributors may be the only ones implementing the style guide, it’s still important that all employees are aware of your style guide. Why? Because if they are creating any type of content, especially if they post about your organization on social media, it is important to have consistency in the voice and type of messaging they are sharing.
It’s also a huge time saver for anyone helping edit content that may have stemmed from another department. Because we all know you don’t want to spend your entire day correcting every single case of the Oxford comma (whether adding or removing the comma).
A great way to ensure every employee is aware of this is to make the style guide a part of the on-boarding process. Make sure every employee has access to a digital copy of your style guide when they start. While consistency throughout every single email or document doesn’t seem like a huge deal, consistency matters - and like it or not, can impact your organization’s reputation.
2. Make the Style Guide a Living Document
A style guide is not a set it and forget it type of document. It needs to be living and updated often. By addressing new policies or additions, your team will all be on the same page, and you can continue to communicate any changes with employees as they come up. By having the document available via your Intranet or on an accessible drive, all employees will be able to stay up to date on policies as well.
This is extremely important, especially if you change or edit a policy. For example, if you used to reference ”health care” as two words but are changing “healthcare” to one word, you’ll want to make sure your team members know about the change.
3. Edit Confusing Style Guide Policies
This may seem pretty obvious – right? But if this is a living document that possibly many departments have access to, it is worth spelling out certain policies if need be. If you want to keep the entire organization on the same page, keep your policies as straight-forward as possible and use examples to help. Going back to the good old Oxford comma example – not everyone will necessarily know what that means. So instead of saying “use the Oxford comma” or “never use the Oxford comma,” actually explain it and give a specific sample from your content as a reference.
4. Continue to Add Policies Specific to Your Organization
This relates to the second tip on the style guide being a living document that needs to be updated, but this is more focused on the breadth and depth of your organization. From products and services to internal communications, there are probably hundreds of policies your team could create specific to your organization. At Siteimprove, we have several tools, and it took a discussion and many decisions to come to an agreement on how we refer to our offerings. Is it a product? Is it a tool? Is it a module? Do we capitalize our offerings?
The confusing and sometimes frustrating part about creating and maintaining a style guide is that there isn’t always a clear answer. You might have a global style guide you follow (AP Style, etc.) but for your organization-specific policies, it won’t apply. Someone will need to make a decision, add it to the style guide, and be consistent moving forward.
5. Most Importantly – Enforce It!
You put all this time and dedication into working on your style guide, editing it, and getting it into the hands of your fellow employees – so make sure they are using it! Bring it up often. Talk about updates in meetings. Ensure your team knows about changes. Remind employees a style guide exists with internal communication. Find an automated tool to find style guide violations on your website. Ensure all content contributors are continuously checking against your style guide when writing. Ultimately, be the voice of your style guide!
And now, relax! Your inner perfectionist can rest easy knowing your style guide and consistency efforts are in good hands across your organization.
Want to learn more about maintaining quality and consistency through web governance? Download our
Web Editor’s Survival Guide. If you’re a current customer, check out our new Policy Library that will help you and your team keep on track! You can find the new Policy Library within the Policy menu on your Siteimprove dashboard.