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Google Style Guide


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Google Style Guide

  1. 1. THE UNPUBLISHED GOOGLE Style Guide Google has Ten Things to govern its business practices, and Software & Design Principles to guide product development. If it were to come up with a Style Guide, like its competitor, Ya- hoo! did, for communication, what should it talk about? Just grammar? Or something beyond that? G Sankaranarayanan, CEO, I have been using Internet regularly for the last 11-12 years. So far, I would have signed-up for at least a hundred web services such as emails and ezines, inattentively checking out the “terms and conditions” checkbox - that is, without a slightest understanding of what their terms condition, and what their conditions term. I don’t bother because: one, I do not perceive big se- curity threat, and two, I am allergic to the legalese of those privacy policies. However, Google is one among the very few exceptions to my “turn a blind eye” policy, when it comes to reading user information online. I read almost everything Google says to the users of its mails, documents, etc for, even its privacy policy highlights are as engaging as its renowned design or software principles to read.
  2. 2. To me, Google’s language, just like its products, is a key factor that positions the company as an innovator. Google may not come up with a style guide yet - maybe, never on its own. But, if at all there is going to be one, it should not be about how Google uses simple and clear language alone. The secret to better language and consistency lies in better integration of corporate or man- agement thinking - that goes into developing a product - into developing content. Google’s excellence in communication can be attributed to its styling of its talking to match its thinking style. The main reason why there could be mis-alignments between words and expressions of a company, and its products, could be that the company in question does not think former as a product by itself. Hence, no investment in terms of time, effort and money, go into corporate communication. Google produces thousands of pages - it blogs, publishes help files, moder- ates forums, every day. But the content, despite of quantity, give an impression that they are developed under the influence of its corporate philosophy, just like how its products like Gmail are. The other side of the coin is products. Goodness of a product play a major role in the reach of language. A prominent example is Sony’s naming of Walkman. When Masaru Ibuka, co- founder of Sony, produced a pocket-sized personal stereo, he chose to name it “Walkman”. Though it’s a noun, the name of a proprietary product, his representatives who were to market the product were skeptic about the name, because it was grammatically incorrect. However, Walkman as a word, since it echoed the sense of freedom the product offered, and the product, were universal hit. In 1986 Oxford English Dictionary included Walkman in its vocabulary. While, there are Codes of Conduct to govern business practices, and guidelines for product design, why should companies not pay attention to evolve an official style guide for corporate communication that would effectively contribute to corporate brand building? After all, com- munication is the third most important facet of a corporate personality - the other two, being: product and business practices. In fact, communication - both, internal and external - is di- rectly responsible for brand building. I would say that the purpose of a corporate style guide - unlike the AP Style Guides of the world that concern mainly about correct usage of language, is to offer better choices of words and expressions for a company’s stakeholders that reflect the style of thinking and style of ac- tion that can be captured in its product design and business practices, respectively. Since there is no understanding of the need for such an integrated communication that goes beyond language, companies do not put the required effort to better communication. Though, management organises structured meetings for product development, no where there is news about high level meetings for corporate social communication. I think the starting point could be assigning a communication professional to come up with a corporate style guide for all written communication. Though the grammar part of it can come from Chicago Manual of Style, the definition of industry terms, product positioning, etc can be created indigenously to make sure that the choice of words go well with the characters of the company. Author contact: