Writing Style Guide: create your own?

Writing Style Guide: create your own

Post updated, May 2023.

Most freelancers and small business owners have no ruddy clue what a writing style guide is.

In short, it’s a writing standard by which an organisation communicates its message. Big corporations hire more than one writer so they have to make sure their content looks and sounds the same—everyone should be singing from the same hymn sheet, as it were. But companies don’t always develop their own writing style guide. Often they’ll use an established standard, like the Associated Press Stylebook, and maybe make a few tweaks to fit their brand.

Do you need a writing style guide?

Like almost everything in life, that depends. Are you boshing out loads of content for your biz? Are you expanding and looking to hire more creators? Do you want to outsource all your content writing to someone else? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you need a writing style guide.

Build your own style guide.

If you do, your copy will look more professional and polished. It will scream “DO BUSINESS WITH ME!” at prospects. Because, kid, words are powerful. They have a positive or negative impact—or worse, no impact whatsoever. And if your content lacks continuity (like nearly all businesses that do their own) it will be beyond meh.

Back to basics.

Before you write a damn thing, get familiar with The Three Ws:

Soul search into who you are as a business. What are the core values that define you? What kind of people are those values going to touch? How do they influence what you write?


This word shows up in my blog all the damn time—proof that I am, if nothing else, consistent/a repetitive bastard. So much can be achieved simply by being consistent. It’s a great quality to cultivate. Setting regular goals—easy-to-maintain goals will bring forth results. The same goes for business, and indeed, business content. Consistency is the umbrella that hangs over all the other stuff I talk about. If your content isn’t harmonious, your inconsistencies will stand out like a jogger’s nipple.


Everyone who’s publishing content has a brand voice (try not to throw up over your fresh clean trousers). Even if you’re oblivious to it, you still have one. So what is that tone of yours? Is it conversational—do you readily use contractions and start sentences with ‘and’? Think about how you communicate with clients, and more importantly, how you should communicate with the kind of clients you’re trying to attract.

Grammar, capitalisation and punctuation.

I know what you’re about to say, isn’t there one, universal way to write?

Sadly, no.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that 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? See, this stuff ain’t straightforward. Language also evolves and changes. New words get added and some words become defunct.

Take a look at this lot:

Words that can be written in different ways, for example: eBook, ebook, or e-book

Different heading formats, for example: How To Murder Your Family And Get Away With It or How to murder your family and get away with it

And when you decide how to style those headings and subheadings, are you adding a full stop?

What about the hyphen (-), en dash (–) and em dash (—)? Will you use them—do you use them? See, I favour the em dash and I use mine without spaces, like the Americans do. I’m such a rebel.


When we write we choose a viewpoint. Your writing style guide should think about whose perspective we’re using. Take a look at this:

Business dictionary.

Your writing style guide should include the way you display your company name/logo. It should cover words that perfectly describe your business. You can also add things like date or number ranges. Again, you can use established guides for these general elements. Include words you hate—the words you wouldn’t want near your content, like ‘synergy’ and ‘circle back’. In the early days, I had a client who didn’t like the word ‘passionate’. He thought it was overused (and yes, I now agree). But I didn’t find that out until he read the first draft of website copy (I was young and foolish). This is why having a writing style guide is helpful.

Think of this as a little intro into writing style guides. Try and create one, it’s a good exercise and will help you figure out what’s important. You’re welcome!

Take a look at my blog which has more blurb about blogging and content writing for your business. If you want to know how I can help you, hit the button.

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