Posted by on Sep 28, 2012 in Blog, SEO |

The Internet Marketing Written Style Guide

Writing is an indispensable part of a strong inbound marketing presence and that’s why it’s important to know how to write great copies through proper style guides. And to be able to do that, you need to write in a consistent fashion; with a strong and unwavering voice and without grammatical errors and misspellings.

To be able to create content that is well written, captivating and trustworthy; you need to develop your own house style guide. This way, you will have your own identity or voice that your readers can identify, which will increase your online presence.

What is a House Style Guide?

A house style guide is a style manual that a particular group of writers follow whenever they need to handle grammar and punctuation and special cases of usage. Some of the style manuals that are commonly used are the:

  • AP Style – Often used in journalistic writing.
  • APA Style – Often used in scientific writing.
  • Chicago Style – Often used in academic writing.

Some organizations, like newspaper and magazine companies follow a specific style manual so that every writer can have a reference whenever they are faced with confusing situations regarding the types of content they are publishing.

And because you are bound to create content for your website, blog or social advertising, you should create your own house style guide so that your content will be more organized, well-formatted and persuasive.

What’s in a House Style Guide?

In creating your own house style guide, you should keep these in mind and make sure that you include all of these in your own style guide.

Style Manual

Your style manual can simply state your chosen style guide along with the exemptions that you want you and your other writers (guest bloggers, hired writers, etc.) to follow. You should state some examples of the words or phrases that you would often use that are not stated in your chosen style guide.

You can also state in your style manual the things that are indicated in your chosen style guide that you don’t agree with or are not planning to use. State your revisions so that you can establish a standard style of your own that you should always follow in creating your content.

Dictionary

Various dictionaries can indicate different meanings and spelling for specific words so you should determine what kind of dictionary you are going to use to avoid confusion and ambiguity.

Exceptions

After you have determined your chosen style guide and dictionary, you should now state all of the exceptions that you want to include in your own house style guide. You can follow some of the guidelines that other writers in your field are following but it’s really up to you since it’s your own house style guide.

How to Create Your Own Style Guide

Now that you already know all the things you need to create your own style guide, you can follow these three easy steps to create your very own style guide.

  1. 1.       Choose Your Style Manual

AP style is the most common style guide that most marketers and writers use so you might want to check it out, though, you can choose any style that you want.

  1. 2.       Choose Your Dictionary

Merriam-Webster dictionary is commonly used nowadays but if you want to use other dictionaries, it’s fine. Just be sure that you can provide sufficient copies to all of your writers.

  1. 3.       List Your Exceptions

You don’t have to list all of your exceptions at once because you might encounter some special grammatical or punctuation cases that you haven’t thought of while you were writing your style guide. You can always improve your style guide by updating your exception lists as you go.

While writing up your exceptions, you should check the following:

  • Acronyms
  • Abbreviations
  • Hyphenated words

You should keep in mind all of the words or phrases you often get confused with. You can check your posts to distinguish words that you should directly state in your exceptions. You can also look up the words that your readers often ask about or the phrases that you often need to explain.

You should also ask someone to take a look at your writing style guide so they can examine your style manual and comment on it and point out some oddities and errors.

Optional: A Section on Voice

You can also indicate the kind of brand voice you want your content to have in your style guide. Whether you want a hip, smart or professional tone in your writing style, you should indicate it in here so your writers can follow the kind of brand voice you want to convey.

To create a good brand voice, you should:

  • Determine the kind of personality you want to convey.
  • Determine the personality of your customers or buyer persona.

Optional: A Section on Microcopy

Include a section on microcopy on your style guide if you want to make your whole website organized. The words or phrases that you put in your forms, buttons, emails and other CTAs are also important because it also conveys the message and personality of your business.

You should include all the words and phrases you often use and the kind of words that you want to keep away from, avoiding inconsistency and vagueness.

How to Implement Your Style Guide

Involve Others

While creating your own style guide, it’s best to let others give their opinions and suggestions so you can have more ideas that you can put into your style manual. You should let your other writers input their own ideas so that you can create a style manual that best suits everyone.

Involving people from outside your industry, like friend and family, also helps because they might see things that you might overlook.

Make It Visible

Once you are happy with your style guide, print it out and let everyone see. Make sure everyone in your group or company knows and has access to your style guide so that they can make it as their reference in writing content.

Revise It as Needed

Make sure to revisit your style guide every now and then and make some necessary revisions if you must. Your company or your target market might change in time so it’s best to update your style guide regularly.

 

Style Guide Template

Here is a template that can help you get started with your own house style guide.

General Guidelines – This part states the style manual of your choice along with your chosen dictionary.

Capitalization – This states the necessary capitalization for people, terms, titles of published works, company and product names and pronouns referring to companies.

Punctuation – This part states the rules regarding punctuations such as apostrophe, colon, comma, hyphen and em dash.

Numbers – This part states the guidelines for writing numbers such as numbers in titles, cardinal numbers, percentages, time, numerical as coordinates, numerals in categories, large numbers, millions and billions, beginning of sentences and ordinals and suffixes.

Attribution – This part covers the guidelines in citing sources. Link attributions and image attributions are being discussed here.

Commonly Troublesome Words – This part is a list of all the most commonly used terms and words that you often get confused with.

Creating your own house style guide is not really that hard. You just need to keep in mind the message and character that you want to convey to your readers and customers to come up with a writing style that will boost your company’s personality and presence.