Published by: Neural Mates
House style guides, or style manuals, are essential tools for writers who want to publish their work professionally. They provide guidelines for formatting and other aspects of writing, such as page layout, font size, margins, word choice, brand voice, colors, and spacing.
Companies use style guides to help content creators produce professional content quickly and efficiently. House style guides are not new by any means. The famous Chicago Manual of Style was published in 1906 by the University Of Chicago Press to provide users with clear instructions on how to format text, tables, figures, images, and more.
A house style guide is a document that outlines a company's preferred style and format choices for its brand's voice. Its purpose is to ensure consistency and clarity in all written materials a company or organization produces.
Creating a house style guide can be helpful for companies or organizations of any size. It can be used internally by employees or contractors to help ensure that all content produced is consistent with the company's brand identity. It can also be shared with outside partners to help ensure that communications are clear and concise.
Style guides ensure that all content, whether audio, video, images or text, is consistent. Consistently styled content helps make your brand more recognizable and trustworthy.
A style guide can also help you save time and money by avoiding the need to have materials rewritten or redesigned due to inconsistencies. Authors and content creators use these documents to guide them through creating content that fits your brand.
Creating a house style guide can also help you avoid potential legal issues. For example, if you use trademarked terms in your communications, you will want to be sure they are appropriately used to prevent potential infringement issues. Make sure to include them in your style guide!
There are no set rules regarding how to create a house style guide. Your manual of style can be as simple or complex as you want to make it.
There are dozens of elements you could include in your guide, and while you don't have to include everything, the more details you include in your documentation, the more valuable it becomes for others.
The following are some of the more commonly included elements companies include in their house style guides:
The tone of your communications should be consistent with your overall brand identity. Your tone of voice can be either formal or informal, fun, witty, or dead serious, depending on your brand. The tone should be appropriate for the audience and the message.
Do you want to be friendly and approachable? Professional and informative? Humorous and light-hearted? Knowing the tone you want to set helps you choose words and phrases that adhere to your brand's voice.
An example of tone could be, "Our company values professionalism, so all communications should be free of slang and informal language."
The voice of your communications should be consistent with the overall brand identity. The voice can be first person, second person, or third person, depending on the brand. The voice should be appropriate for the audience and the message.
An example of voice could be, "Our company values professionalism, so all communications should be in the third person."
The style guide should include a list of preferred and discouraged words, phrases, abbreviations, acronyms, etc., and can help ensure that all communications are clear and consistent.
An example of word choice could be "We prefer the use of 'client' over 'customer.'"
The style guide should include a list of preferred grammar and punctuation choices. Properly used grammar and punctuation also help you appear more professional.
An example of grammar and punctuation could be "We use the Oxford comma."
The style guide should include a list of preferred formatting choices such as:
An example of formatting could be, "All communications should be left-aligned with 1-inch margins. Titles and Subheadings should be properly Title Cased. The title should be displayed immediately below the primary image using a <h1> tag for blogs. Subheadings should use a <h2> tag followed by a paragraph of text. Use bulleted lists for items that are of equal importance. Use numbered lists instead for items that should be in a specific order."
The style guide should include a list of preferred visual elements. This list can include items such as:
An example of visual elements could be, "Images should be high-resolution and properly cropped. Add the company logo to the upper-left corner of all legal documents with the company tagline beneath the logo."
Include a brief history of your company or organization's history, mission, and core values to provide third-party users with your style guide context when producing content.
An example of company history, mission statement, and core values could be "Our company was founded in 2022. Our mission is to provide affordable AI-powered brand management and marketing solutions to individuals and businesses. We believe in providing quality services at a fair price to help bring these powerful tools to the public."
Your manual should provide guidance on adequately citing sources to ensure that all information is properly attributed. This will help avoid plagiarism and potential legal issues.
An example of citing sources could be, "All information must be properly attributed. When using information from other sources, quote, paraphrase, or summarize the information and include all citations. All images should have proper attribution to the originator or source directly underneath the image."
The guide should include a glossary of terms specific to the company or organization.
An example of a company-specific glossary could be "XYZ - XYZ is a company-specific term that refers to ABC."
Ensure you include a link and instructions for using any available templates your content creators can use. Templates can be helpful for various communications, such as videos, infographics, emails, reports, proposals, presentations, and social media posts.
Premade templates for your content creators can significantly lower production costs and speeds up content releases. There are many free template resources online, though feel free to create your own.
Creating a house style guide can help ensure your content and communications remain consistent across all platforms. Follow these helpful tips to create a solid house style guide that is easy to reference and follow.
A house style guide does not have to be long or complicated. It can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Try not to clutter the document with unnecessary information. Stick to the basics so that it's easy to reference and follow. You can always add more later if necessary.
Use a consistent format throughout your style guide to make it easy to navigate and reference. If your style guide is for internal use only, you can use any design you want. However, if you plan to share your guide with clients or the general public, it becomes vital to use a format that is easy to understand and follow. Neural Mates has a free style guide feature. Click here to try it out!
Use language that's easy to understand and free of jargon to ensure that your guide is accessible to everyone. Try to always use the same approach for similar content, avoiding abbreviations and acronyms that aren't widely known. The fewer questions users of your style guide need to ask, the more valuable the document is.
If you're publishing written content like blog posts, emails, social media posts, and website copy, clearly define your brand's tone of voice so that your team knows how to engage in communication with your audience and customers properly.
Be specific when outlining your preferred style and format choices. For example, rather than saying "use a sans-serif font," say "use Arial or Helvetica only for body copy." Doing so makes it easier for others to follow your guide. Be thorough but concise to avoid headaches and the need to backtrack down the road.
Use examples to illustrate your preferred style and format choices. If you outline your preferred email format, provide screenshots of emails following your guidelines. Doing so helps make your guide more concrete and easy to follow and can speed up production.
Visuals like images, infographics, and charts help illustrate your points and provide examples. They also help make your guide more visually appealing and easier to follow by breaking up large blocks of text. A picture is worth a thousand words!
Use templates to help standardize your house style guide and ensure consistency to make it easy for others to navigate. There are many house style guide templates available online that you can use to help get you started or check out Neural Mate's style guide feature!
Be sure to update your style guide regularly to remain accurate and up-to-date. Once you have created your house style guide, it is crucial to keep it updated.
As your company or organization grows and changes, so too will your style guide grow and change. Review and update your guide regularly to remain accurate and relevant to get the most use out of it.
Ask colleagues or other experts in your field for their input on your house style guide. They may have helpful suggestions you haven't considered!
Once you have created your house style guide, it is vital to keep it up-to-date as your company or organization grows and changes.
The level of detail and complexity will vary depending on whether the guide is for internal use only or if it will be shared with a third party or the general public.
Your house style guide should be a living document to reference when creating content or working with outside partners. It should be clear and concise, making it easy to navigate so anyone who reads it can understand and follow your brand's guidelines. Most importantly, it should be tailored to meet the specific needs of your company or organization.