How to write for your brand by creating a Writing Style Guide
I hate marketing terms like ‘your brand’, why do they all sound so, well, wanky? Anyway, today’s gem of a post is all about how you formalise the stuff you write for your business.
A writing style guide is a writing standard by which an organisation communicates its message
Some companies use more than one copywriter. Global brands, for example, need to make sure their copy looks and sounds the same. An organisation that uses specific, technical language will be making sure their business writing is just so. Both will almost certainly have a document that details how they talk about their business.
Do you need a writing style guide?
The scale of your organisation will play a role here, and also what priority you place on getting your content, bang on. In reality, most smaller businesses don’t have one (and often their copy is all over the show). Developing a style guide is really useful, and I’m about to blow your mind with how useful it is.
It will help you look more professional, more polished, and a company to do business with.
Words are powerful. They either have a positive or negative impact:
When I was a kid, my brother liked to call me, ‘thick’. It took me a long time to learn to read, and I was also hopeless at maths, and even though I know I’m anything but thick (aside from my thighs) I still remember that word and how it made me feel
One day soon you’ll get too busy to write for your business. Creating a guide now will save time when you outsource to a copywriter.
Let’s start at the very beginning:
- Who are you?
- Who are you writing for?
- What are you writing about?
If you can answer the above questions, you’re on the road to knowing how to create a writing style guide. Exciting times.
I think this is one of the most important things to have when you’re writing. Consistency is important in many things in business. Think of this as the umbrella that stands over all the other stuff I’m going to talk about.
Here’s what your style guide should include:
Or your mission, if you prefer (I don’t) and by that I mean what you stand for as a business, what your values are and more terms I dislike but can’t find a better way of explaining them.
Your intellectual property
Look at how you write your business name, logo and company slogan. If this isn’t consistent it will stick out like the proverbial ‘sore thumb’.
Voice and tone
How do you run your business and how does it translate to how you communicate with clients? Are you naturally very formal? Are you very personable? Do you use humour?
Grammar, capitalisation, and punctuation
But isn’t there one, universal way to write all this?
Sadly, no. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all dictionaries agree either – they don’t. And what if you’re a UK based company but your clients are in America? Will you write using American-English or English-English? (Joke for the Americans there) Language evolves and changes. Go and read The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English to see just how much it’s changed.
Take a look at this lot:
Words that can be written in different ways: eBook, Ebook or e-book
How you format headings: How To Write For Your Brand By Creating A Writing Style Guide or How to write for your brand by creating a Writing Style Guide
How you write speech: “I sure hope we get out of this alive” or ‘I sure hope we get out of this alive’
This is getting tense but I’m talking about the past, present and future. For many of us it’s something we do without much thought but next time you write, take a look when you’re setting the tense and is it – you guessed it, consistent?
When we write we write from a viewpoint:
- First-person: Choosing ‘I’ or ‘we’
- Second-person: Taking on the viewpoint of the narrator, using ‘you’ or ‘your’
- Third-person: Writing about yourself as if you were someone else ‘Sarah has 20 years business support experience’ or ‘Blue Sky Thinking advertising agency was founded in 2004 by Robert Smith’
Create a document with words you prefer to use when describing you and your business. You could pop in things like how you want the date to be written and include words you want to avoid.
I had a client who didn’t like the word ‘passionate’ when describing how he felt about his business. He thought it was a word that was overused. How did I find that out? I used it in the first draft of his website copy. Note to self: always ask this shit before you start writing for a client.
I think that’s probably enough, you can always add and build on this. It’s a really good exercise to give your brand a little cohesion. You’re welcome!
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