Why your organization needs a style guide


Posted June 25, 2019

When documents are the deliverables, you need a way to attain and maintain quality and consistency. That's where a style guide comes in. A style guide lays out the rules and guidelines that your organization will follow in all of its documents. Why is this important? Read on.

What does "documents are deliverables" mean?

The documents that your team writes are the face of your organization!  These documents shape how your organization is viewed and how clients, customers, and others think of, and interact with, your business. In other words, your team’s documents are crucial to finding, gaining, and retaining customers; making a good impression; and achieving organizational goals.

What does a style guide have to do with that?

The primary purpose of a style guide is to ensure consistency and grammatical correctness in the writing that your team produces. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style lays out specific guidelines that govern spelling, punctuation, word use, organization, and more. For example, will your organization use the Oxford comma, or not? Most organizations also have internal rules or guidelines they use, but often these are unofficial. As a result, the organization's writers will be inconsistent in how they construct and write their documents. A style guide helps ensure consistency and correctness.

Why is a corporate style guide important?

Consistency is the foundational benefit of a style guide. If the style guide incorporates brand guidelines as well, the writing will also convey the same personality, voice, and tone.
But there are other benefits as well. For one, a style guide eliminates confusion for readers where there are inconsistencies between documents, making it easier for readers to consume the documents and accurately understand what they're reading. It also provides structure to the writing process; standardizes documents; speeds up the writing process by ensuring that writers have a clear understanding of expectations; and reduces time spent revising, as writers can avoid common problems.

How can you get started with a style guide of your own?

For most professional organizations, it's probably a good idea to start with an existing style guide, like the Chicago Manual of Style or AP Style. Use that as a baseline and add organization-specific requirements as appropriate. Try to keep your in-house style guide relatively short: no more than a few pages long and be sure you train your writers on how to use it. Always keep your writers in mind when developing a style guideline; that is, everything in the style guide should facilitate your team’s ability to successfully and effectively communicate with their intended readers.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.