4 Reasons You Need a Content Style Guide

I hate Oxford commas. They are clunky, obsolete and I hope to never see one again. Until then, I can write a clause in the Caddis Style Guide that prohibits them. In addition to solving the whole Oxford comma dilemma inside the Caddis office, there are other reasons we needed a style guide. As our blogging effort grows, the style guide will serve as a tool to keep our message, copy and format consistent.

Before we move on, it’s important to understand the meanings of voice, tone and style. People interchange these terms as if they mean the same thing. I know they don’t, but I am not sure what each exactly means, so I am going to take a stab at it and when I use these words below, this is what I mean:

Voice: A writer’s voice is his or her own personality. It’s unique to individual authors. A voice can be light and straightforward or dark and indirect.

Tone: An author can write in a different tone, but still maintain a unique voice. Tone can be conservational or formal. It is more the attitude toward its subject matter.

Style: Refers to the language conventions used to construct the piece of writing. It can be sentence structure, phrasing, dialogue and other aspects. Style, along with voice contributes to tone. Hemingway wrote in a sparing and minimalist style – using the least elements to create the most impact, while James Joyce used peculiar and obscure literary devices such as stream of conscience and allusion.

Now, on to the reasons we needed a content style guide.

Voice, Tone and Style May Vary, But Messaging Needs To Be Focused

Caddis doesn’t specialize in one area of marketing and web design. We are a full service agency and all our employees will be contributing to the blog. I’ve read a lot of style guides that tell writers to speak in a unified voice, but I've found you can’t change a writer’s voice. It’s who they are. That said, we create content for our clients every day, but we write in their voices, not our own. I guess you can mimic another person or brand’s voice, but yours is what gives your writing individuality.

With this in mind, Caddis wants to blog with a consistent message. One that educates and gives readers a chance to see how we think by using real examples and giving readers the tools to put our advice into action for their own marketing needs. It’s pretty much like sitting in our weekly status meetings (they are pretty fun). Everyone has their own voice in those meetings and we want them to bring the same voice to the Caddis blog.

So if you have a blog platform where multiple authors are contributing, don’t get hung up on requiring each writer to use the same voice, tone and style. Focus on the message. It will give your content variety without repeating the same message in the same way over and over again.

Style Guides = Less Editing

While the voice of your writers may vary, copy needs to be consistent for a professional appearance. Make sure your style guide has sections on abbreviations, capitalization, word usage, etc. in an easy to reference guide. Or at the least set a “house style” that is based on one of the guides already in print – AP, MLA, etc. This will give bloggers guidelines and cut down on editing time while assuring word usage and grammar is consistent through the blog.

Keeps a Consistent Look to Each Post

You want your website to look clean, with a consistent design and layout. This section of the style guide can be extremely detailed in specifying headings, photo requirement, links and other layout elements.

Serves as a Reference for Writers as You Grow

As your company grows or if you decided to add guest blog posts into the editorial calendar, a style guide helps your blog grow more efficiently. Make sure whoever writes for the blog has access to it for referencing. This will cut down on editing time and increase productivity.

These are the reasons why Caddis is taking the time to create a style guide. As a reader, you can look forward to a variety of voices with a consistent message that won't bore you; and of course, fewer Oxford Commas.