To set the standard in content marketing at your business, it’s important to make sure writers are aligned. Their copy should follow agreed-upon rules. For example:
- Is it “don’t” or “do not”; “can’t” or “cannot”?
- Can a subhead be a question?
- Is the hyphen necessary in “non-essential”?
- What’s the plural possessive of your company name?
- Is it even OK to modify the company name?
These questions – and more – can pop into a writer’s head within minutes of working on your content.
What’s the fastest way for your writers to get the answers they need? By developing a thorough style guide. The guide ensures consistency in your materials by providing quick and definite answers to common questions. Don’t have one yet? Follow these steps to create a style guide that will keep your copy consistent.
Establish a baseline standard in content marketing
Creating a style guide from scratch would burn through massive amounts of time and resources. So we suggest letting someone else do that work for you. Fortunately, you can pick from several existing guides, like:
- The Associated Press Stylebook (AP style)
- The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style)
- The MLA Handbook from the Modern Language Association of America (MLA style)
Certain style guides are better for specific content or formats. Therefore, do a little research to see which one matches your needs.
Break the rules the right way
Once you have a good starting point, create a list of your company’s exceptions to the style guide and preferences that aren’t covered. Note all spellings, hyphens, contractions and punctuation that contradict your chosen style guide. For example, do you use “adviser” or “advisor”? “Percent” or “%”? By listing only exceptions to an established style, you’ll be able to keep your company’s style guide concise and easy to reference.
Define rules around trademarks
Company names and trademarks don’t always conform to grammar or the standard in content marketing. List constructions of your company’s trademarks. Likewise, note what to use or avoid so that issues don’t creep into your copy.
In addition, be sure to cover how you want writers to handle possessives, plurals and modifiers. For example, if you were working with Best Buy, would you say “multiple Best Buys” or change it to “multiple Best Buy locations” to avoid the plural company name? How would you choose to handle the possessive in “Amazon’s Prime subscription service,” versus “Amazon Prime’s subscription service” or “Amazon Prime subscription service”?
Run through different formats
Common projects, such as newsletters, quarterly reports and presentations might require separate style sheets. As the standard in content marketing, style sheets let writers know any differences or preferences that apply only to those formats. If you want to make sure that every bullet point in your brochures starts with a verb, put it on the style sheet. Don’t want to see any questions in your newsletter headlines? Put it on the style sheet so that your writers know what you want to see. These become your standard in content marketing.
Finally, accessibility is key for keeping a style guide in use and updated. Make sure your writers have access to your baseline style guide, as well as whatever style sheets apply to their assignments. Writers will love having a quick reference guide. Moreover, you’ll love not having to make the same changes repeatedly in the review process.