Why Writers Love Content and Style Guidelines (and Tips for What to Include)

Consistency is key to building and maintaining your brand. While you may cover a range of topics written from a variety of perspectives, each piece still has to reflect your brand’s defining values and sensibilities. Well-composed content and style guidelines help both internal and external writers produce better content, as well as ensure each piece fits into a harmonious (and highly sought after!) community.  

There are two stand-out benefits to having a clear set of guidelines.

  • They ensure a cohesive voice. It’s impossible to build your brand if everyone is talking about it in a different way. From your internal team to outsourced content creators, all your writers should have a strong understanding of your organization’s goals, values, and ideals. By outlining the standards to adhere to, you provide one steadfast point of reference.
  • They improve productivity. Both writers and editors can be more efficient when there’s a go-to source for product names, messaging, capitalization, abbreviations, and other details. This eliminates confusion, allows writers to stay in their creative zone, and prevents editors from having to answer the same questions over and over again.

Ready to hammer out your content and style guidelines? Believe it or not, the process is a lot like building a house. Before you break ground, you need a blueprint. Fortunately, we have some best practices to share to make sure your content and style guidelines are built on solid ground.

5 Tips to Create a Style Schematic

1. Define the Big Picture.

Much of the success of a content marketing strategy depends on the ability of your writers to draw in the right audience. Thirty percent of marketers are creating content that reflects their brand’s values. This makes sense, given 82% of shoppers are also looking for a brand whose values align with theirs. By showcasing your guiding principles, you can attract the consumers who want what you have to offer.

The link between well-developed writing parameters and effective branding is unmistakable. Content and style guidelines are a platform to give your writers a thorough overview of what your organization is aiming to accomplish in a clear and easily navigated format. They should define your:

  • Overall Mission, Values, and Objectives: What do you want to achieve? What is your definition of success? What are your long-term goals, as well as your short-term objectives?
  • Value Proposition: What is the benefit to your consumers? What product or service will they receive? What problem will it solve for them?

Strong content and style guidelines will answer all of these questions, so your writers – whether in-house or outsourced – have a solid foundation to build pieces that support your overall content marketing strategy. This blueprint will also encompass the structural elements of the content, reinforcing your identity and message.

2. Build on a Well-Established Foundation.

When you set the rules for grammar, usage, and punctuation, you don’t have to start on an empty lot. Instead, take advantage of the infrastructure experts have already put in place.  We recommend the gold standards of style.

Because the AP Stylebook is considered a premier source for writing and editing, it’s favored by many brands. A major plus: since many journalists and editors rely on it, it’s helpful in writing articles, press releases, and any copy that may require citations. The Chicago Manual of Style is another industry-accepted option.

With a firm foundation set, you can add your own specifications for structural elements. Prefer the Oxford comma? Feel free to overrule the AP. Just include it in your guidelines.

3. Frame Out the Formatting.

To achieve brand stability, content and style guidelines should provide standards for formatting, including everything from fonts and margins to headings and bullet points.

These benchmarks give pieces a uniform and polished appearance, making them more scannable for online consumption. Solid construction that’s square and plumb isn’t just more pleasing to the eye – it’s built to stand the test of time. When your content is visually appealing, it’s easier for the audience to digest and retain.

While improving the readability and accessibility of the content, consistent formatting also reflects a high level of professionalism. Whether it’s a corporate report, a marketing brochure, or website copy, a unified format creates a lasting impression for consumers.  And when they can quickly navigate to the information they want, they’re more likely to consider your brand a trusted, go-to source. Translation? Repeat clients.

4. Differentiate Your Tone, Voice, and Style.

How do you want to come across to your audience? Does your copy feel like a cozy log cabin in the woods or a streamlined skyscraper in midtown? Explicit instructions and examples of pieces you love from your existing content bank are the best way to ensure your writers learn how your messaging should feel, sound, and look.

  • Is your tone formal, casual, informative, or persuasive?
  • Is your voice conversational or academic?
  • Is your style conservative, trendy, or quirky?

Answering these questions in your content and style guidelines enables existing writers to maintain strong branding that’s aligned with your content marketing strategy. It also aids new writers to speak your language more quickly and fluently. This reduces miscommunications and shortens revision time in the editing process. When your content team is running like a well-oiled machine, everyone can put their energy into producing fresh, engaging copy.

5. Add Finishing Touches with Your Messaging.

To reinforce your point of view, your messaging must be woven into every piece. Be sure to include a list of your key messages and the terms and phrases you use to describe your business. If certain SEO phrases should be included, be sure to provide a list of the target keywords along with guidance about how, when, and where they should be incorporated into copy.

If you’ve established a particular hashtag, trademark, or slogan, indicate when to use it and on which platforms. If you have different marketing campaigns happening simultaneously across multiple channels, it can be helpful to create a shared spreadsheet showing which catchphrases go with which products, on which social media forums.

Ready to Diagram Your Plan for Brand Success?

At Version A, our clients have a wide range of style and content guidelines. Whether your approach is light-hearted and airy, or you prefer down-to-earth gravitas, well-developed parameters will help all your contributors create polished and engaging copy in less time. For every piece we produce, the writers of Version A have our client’s stylebook open and underlined. Our goal is to ensure your content sounds exactly like you, every time.

Why Writers Love Content and Style Guidelines (and Tips for What to Include)
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Tara Coughlin

As a writer for Version A, I create content for several of our clients in the technology space. My combined background in liability insurance, military operations, and disaster relief gives me real-world insight into the importance of effective communication, particularly when it comes to logistics and crisis management. When I’m not writing, I play the clarinet. Just kidding! I’m an insatiable traveler and my big picture goal is to see as much of the world as possible. The list is extensive, but my favorite place so far has been the Whitsundays off the east coast of Australia.
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