Why Your Blog Needs a Style Guide & How to Make One

Overwhelming wall of notes and references

Did you know that 70% of people prefer learning about products through content?

With the benefit of content marketing being so clear, businesses must maintain a consistent and targeted presence online.

An easy way to ensure that your business or brand is represented consistently is by creating and adhering to a style guide.

Style guides aren’t just for big businesses or publishers. All businesses, from sole trader to corporations, need a style guide.

What Is a Writing Style Guide?

A writing style guide, sometimes called an editorial or content style guide, is a set of standards for the writing of brand-related content including (but not limited to):

  • Web copy
  • Content
  • Social media
  • Emails
  • Internal documents

A style guide defines the way you use words when writing about or for your business.

Guides usually include the way you write your business name (will it be Error Free Me or Error-Free Me?), common abbreviations, grammar, punctuation, numerals, referencing, terminology, voice, and any common mistakes.

Using an editorial style guide with clear rules ensures consistency across all marketing channels and helps your customers recognise you online.

A style guide is essential when it comes to defining and maintaining brand voice.

Following a style guide also helps you form a personal connection between readers and your brand.

How Do I Make a Writing Style Guide?

An easy way to start creating your editorial style guide is by finding a similar sample. 

Here are some style guides to get you started. They’re divided by location, as it gives a good start for location-based spelling differences.

For Australia:

For Canada:

For the United Kingdom:

For the United States:

Once you’ve picked a suitable base for your guide, it’s time to add in brand-relevant specifications. These specifications should include:

  • How to present the brand name
  • The brand’s voice (overall personality)
  • The brand’s tone (happy, confident, friendly, etc)
  • Formatting
  • The spelling of industry-specific terms, jargon, and acronyms (and their alternatives)
  • Tricky words (e.g. ecommerce vs e-commerce)

These are just some examples of elements to add to your editorial style guide. Make it personal!

 If you repeatedly check the spelling or grammar of a phrase, add it to your guide – your future self will thank you.

Are there style guide templates?

I’ve searched around the web to find some great templates you can use to create your editorial style guide.

Here are some of my favourites:

Why You Need to Stop Relying on Spellcheckers

Red correction pen lying on an edited text

Many of us rely on the spellcheck tools integrated into our favourite word processors. The helpful tool has become so popular and widely used that it’s now being blamed for poor literacy, particularly among students.

One of the main problems with spellcheckers is in the very name.

With a focus on spelling, spellcheckers can ignore mistaken homophones and ignore (or even create) errors in grammar and syntax.

There’s nothing worse than writing an important document, sending it off and then spotting an embarrassing mistake.

Maybe instead of “definitely having metrics” you “defiantly have metrics”. Spellcheck knows that both defiantly and definitely are words so did not flag the issue.

New programs attempt to combat some of these problems. Grammarly, for instance, addresses grammar and syntax in addition to spelling.

That means grammar checkers are better, right?

Grammarly is an immensely popular plug-in that can be used alongside other applications (yes, even Word!). This compatibility is one reason for Grammarly’s success.

To give you an insight into just how popular Grammarly is, I’ll tell you this:

As of 2017, Grammarly has 6.9 million daily users.

Yes, you read that right. 6.9 million!

I won’t lie to you; Grammarly is a great tool. It also makes mistakes.

Recently, I wrote a book review. Grammarly flagged “self-centred” as incorrect, and instead suggested that I use “self-centered”.

A simple disagreement but an important one.

For my website, I follow the Oxford Style Guide, which favours British spelling. Using the American spelling”self-center” resulted in an avoidable inconsistency.

What was even more interesting was what happened when I did follow Grammarly’s advice.

When I accepted Grammarly’s suggestion to change the word, the extension flagged it again. This time it suggested that it should be “self-centred”.

Apparently, grammar checkers can be just as unsure as the rest of us!

Remember—rules are made to be broken.

Another interesting problem with spelling and grammar checkers is their inability to stray from preprogrammed rules.

There are some cases where it is better for a text to ignore certain rules. A good example of this is passive voice.

Passive voice refers to a subject being acted upon rather than the subject doing the acting. Passive voice is an issue that checkers like Grammarly often flag as errors. This is because the active voice is usually stronger and more clear than passive voice, which can be seen as weak and unsure.

The majority of the time active voice is preferable, but there are many instances where passive should be considered.

When writing news headlines, passive voice can provide more impact and focus.

For instance, “Mother of two attacked by man” places importance on the victim, while the active form, “Man attacks mother of two” places focus on the perpetrator. This is particularly relevant when the person doing the acting is unidentified.

Another example is a matter of style.

Faster pacing often relies on fragmented sentences; it conveys an extra punch and sense of urgency.

Long sentences tend to flow, are more rhythmic, and often considered to be more literary.

If you’re a long-sentence-writer and clicked that link, you’ll see that you’re in very good company. Esteemed writers like Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner were all fond of long prose.

Many grammar tools may flag these stylistic choices as wrong (they have the potential to be problematic, but aren’t necessarily wrong). A real human editor, however, is able to consider the context of the passage within the larger piece and the author’s writing style and desired tone.

What should you use instead of spellcheck and grammar checkers?

Don’t let this post scare you.

Spellcheckers and grammar checkers can be useful tools, but be wary of relying on them.

If you think that you have a dependence on spellcheck and grammar tools, try going without them for a few days!

Alternatively, check your work with multiple tools. Many tools will throw unnecessary errors, while some will miss them altogether. By checking with different tools you can make a more informed decision on what is good spelling or grammar and what isn’t.

Even better than trying new, or extra tools, is enlisting the help of another person.

An extra set of eyes are often able to spot errors the original writer or editor may have missed.

Friends or family may be willing to proofread your text and offer valuable corrections. For even more comprehensive suggestions consider speaking to a professionally trained editor. Your work will thank you!