What is a style guide, and why have one?

In my last blog, I touched on the role of consistency and continuity in signalling a brand’s reliability. This, in turn, builds trust. In a fast-paced world, we tend to turn to brands that are reliable and that we can therefore trust. When organizations repeatedly deliver on their promises, this relationship is cemented.

For organizations, what is the means to establishing and maintaining this consistency and continuity in their written messages? It is the organizational style guide that sets out the various aspects of style – font type and size, language variety (British vs American spelling), and capitalization, to name but a few – for the organization. The style guide can have various names, depending on the environment. In a corporation, it could be called the corporate style guide; for a university department, it may be called the departmental style guide; for a magazine, it is often called the magazine style guide, or sometimes, the publication style guide.

A style guide may be derived from one or more style manuals. Style sheets are used to record new styles that have been required and applied. Thus, style guides are at a hierarchical level between style manuals and style sheets.

Organizational style guides are usually stored centrally, where they can be accessed by the staff who require them. Certain people are usually tasked with overseeing and updating the guide. Their responsibilities include implementing new styles and changes suggested by stakeholders, recorded in style sheets.

Training in copy-editing equips the style guide administrators with the with the necessary skills. WriteArt’s Core Copy-editing Course (with Emphasis on Electronic Document Editing) deals with style extensively and would be a good course for anyone implementing and administering an organizational style guide to take – see WriteArt’s Courses web page for information on this course and the News & Notices page for the next course dates.

Because the work of professional copy-editors involves using style manuals, style guides and style sheets on an ongoing basis, they are well suited to setting up an organization’s style guide, and to consulting on the processes – and with the staff – necessary to maintain it.

If you feel that your company could benefit from developing a style guide, or from having an existing style guide updated, perhaps together with implementing the necessary support structures and processes, contact Russell at WriteArt for more information. WriteArt, a company with years of experience in the copy-editing field, is ideally positioned to offer all of these services.

By Russell de la Porte
web: http://writeart.com.www27.flk1.host-h.net/
email: russell@writeart.com

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