Style guide definition is given as a set of standards and rules for the design, writing, and formatting of paperwork. A style guide acts as a tool that indicates your brand identity and company information to your workers and vendors who will be responsible for creating content for your organization. It also helps with the consistency in grammar, spelling, and terminology of your documents, presentations, and advertorials, etc. Whether it is a content style guide, a translation style guide, or a corporate style guide, there are several main rules that you should pay attention to while creating a style guide for your company.
What Should Be Included in a Brand Style Guide?
The most important thing is, your style guide shouldn't be too long or boring for the translator. It should be easily understandable and written with simple words. Also, style guides should be special to the brand and should reflect the characteristics of the company. You have to remember that the world is steadily turning every day. Thus, changes in the company, in the products, or the target market are inevitable. For this exact reason the style guide should not be static; every piece of information and every directive should be easily updatable. Then, what do we need while creating a company style guide?
The translator should know about your company, so implementing a short description of the company, its purpose and mission are a good starting point for building a brand style guide template. The global market is the melting pot of all different countries and cultures. That’s why different company style guides should be prepared according to the consuming habits of the different markets.
It is important to catch the right tone and format during the translation process. So the translator will be informed about the target market, target audience, and the purpose of the product. You can attach some visuals or even audio files or video links that are related to previous translations done by different translators to the product style guide.
Editors are responsible for the most critical part of the translation process; the last control before the project delivered to the customer. Since translators can miss some points during a potentially long and tiring translation process, the editors have to have further information about the company and the product within the editorial style guides.
Why is It Important to Have A Style Guide?
So what is a style guide and why is it important? A style guide is like the ID Card of a company. It makes sure whatever content you produce, it stays within your lines. Companies invest a lot of time and energy into building their brand, and style guides let you protect it. Writing style guide might seem like an extra effort in the beginning but it helps you save more time in the long run. Let’s see some of the main reasons a company should have a style guide.
Consistency We can’t stress this one enough- keeping consistency is the main purpose of a style guide. Companies publish their content on different channels, in various countries, during different time periods, via different service providers. How do you make sure that you choose the same words each time you send out a text to the void of the internet, while there are different people working on each text? With the help of a style guide of course. There are a variety of ways to say one thing. But having a style guide will let the team in charge know your preferences. It could be leaving all dates in the US format or writing your company name with lowercase letters only, or never using semicolons. You name it, we make it! It will also prevent confusion that could arise out of the dual-naming of some concepts.
Branding As we have mentioned a while ago, visual style guides preserve the way your company looks. By that we mean, your graphics will stay the same on every platform. Your logo will be the same size with the exact shade of red, the spacing between the lines will always be the same and if you only want to use Comic Sans as your font -we hope not- no one can stop you!
Using the Right Words Specific words could be inappropriate to use in some cultures despite looking fairly neutral. But your newly hired content strategist might not be familiar with the specific culture. By having a set style guide, you’re not leaving any risk of sounding offensive in any region you’re addressing.
Setting the Tone The thing that goes into what forms a brand apart from the way it looks is how it sounds. Nike, an active sportswear brand, for example, sounds excited and motivating in its advertisements whereas UPS Global, a logistics company, wants to focus on a feeling of safety and trust so the texts will sound calmer. These are not left up to chance and are all ensured with editorial style guides.
Saving Time The last point that shows the importance of a style guide is realizing how much time it’s going to save you in the long run. Having these points listed in a style guide will make sure it’s accessible any time it’s needed. It will prevent thousands of repetitive conversations among your team members and they will have more time to focus on what really matters. You won’t have to worry about maintaining the image of your brand.
How to Create a Style Guide That Fits You the Best
When an organization thinks about designing a style guide, certain aspects of the guide needs to be clarified and also approved by all involved parties in the organization. Getting approval from all stakeholders is important since it will be followed when it is published and updated, or at least increases the chance of being followed.
How to make a style guide? You will have to pay particular attention to multiple aspects of the specific needs of your target audience. First, know your audience! You may have target clients within a specific age group that will attribute certain meanings to some words or phrases while other age groups have different meanings in their minds. Think of Millennials vs Baby Boomers as two groups of your target audience and you can test many differences in their perceptions and understandings. Sam rule applies to different geographies due to cultural differences.
Second, you need to think very carefully about your company and brand values. Once you decide on that you will know how your brand needs to come across to your audience.
Third, perhaps more importantly, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. All you need to do is to look at your competitors' communication style, not to replicate it or plagiarise from it but to analyze it. You may conclude that your competitors have already created a jargon that resonates with your audience. We just wanted to give you a few things to consider before developing your style guide here, and there are of course, more to it.
You are now ready to develop your style guide. Creating a style guide will require you to think hard about what should be included in it and the key elements that make up your guide. Here is what we think you should consider as the key elements: Voice, Tone, Style, and Layout.
Voice: One of the most important elements is the voice as it will set the basis for the rest of your style guide. You have to decide how your brand should be perceived by your audience - do you want to sound funny or serious, formal or personable? This voice will help you set your unique personality in communicating with your audience.
Tone: If you are a writer, your voice will always be the same voice but your tone will change when you write for different channels. For example, you may write differently for a social media post but your tone may sound different when you are writing a scientific paper. A cheerful consideration should be given to your tone in your style guide and define it accordingly.
Style: This is where you standardize your style guide for the way content creators must follow in terms of punctuations, abbreviations, use of emojis or not, time and date formats, etc.
Layout: Last but not least, you should decide on the layout options of your style guide. This is where you decide on the use of layout elements such as how the images should look, color schema, the use of fonts, links, and lists, etc.
There are many style guide examples online, which you should take advantage of. You may begin with a style guide template to make your job easier. Similarly, there are many brand style guide examples and they are at your fingertips with a few google searches. Your style guide is a living document that needs to be constantly updated but it does not need to be a hefty document.