A guide to style guides
By Julie Espinosa, at March
Why should you care about them?
"Hammering out style details at the beginning
saves needless time and expense to clean up
these small details at the end of a large project."
—Angie Halama, of Brain Traffic
Clears up confusion among multiple contributors to a project
One centralized resource
Resolves questions on frequently problematic elements
Tool in editorial strategy, part of a larger content strategy
Project- or subject-specific.
What it isn't
exhaustive, i.e. it should not replicate or replace a whole
dictionary (or Google)
Tone and brand voice
Specify primary reference material and a real person
If it’s not listed here, please consult the AP Stylebook. If you still
can’t find it, call Edith Editor at 555-CAT-SUPQ or e-mail her.
Add what you need
It should be project-specific, so consider:
Trademarks or legally required language
If content is done in-house or by freelancers (more detail if
Whether content might be recycled online or in print
See "Developing a Departmental Style Guide" on last slide
Demonstrate actual examples of tone (words to use or not use)
or the word bank (hat tip: Brain Traffic)
Don't include ...
The following are important, but IMO part of a larger content
strategy and don't belong in a style guide:
Design and developer standards
Content management strategy
Points of contention
Conventions of AP vs. Chicago vs. normal people vs. your
To name only a few:
Email or e-mail, Web site or website, Internet or internet
Sentence vs. title case
Tips to create your own style guide
1. Decide today to put together a guide for the project(s) you're
currently working on.
2. Survey all your content for inconsistencies/queries.
3. Assess any guidelines you do have and update/reconcile.
4. Put your guide somewhere you can collaboratively edit and
share (online page, Google Docs, wiki, etc.)
5. Plan how to review and regularly update the style guide.
6. Decide who will decide.
7. Use it, share it and keep it up to date.
Developing a Departmental Style Guide by Jean Weber
Web Content Style Guides that Don’t Suck by Kristina
5 Tips on Working with a Style Guide by Elizabeth Saloka
The Chicago Manual of Style
The Elements of Style