When it comes to content, whether print or digital, B2B or B2C, most publishing groups use editorial style guides. This has nothing to do with fashion, but it definitely has something to do with looks—it’s all about how your content looks to readers, and how they in turn build an opinion of your brand. Obviously you want present and future customers to have positive opinions. Using a style guide helps with that.
A style guide determines how you present your branded content to the public. It’s a set of standards that ensures a clean, cohesive, consistent approach that radiates professionalism. It gives you a professional, recognizable appearance.
Consistency for the win
One of the big concerns around style guides is consistency. Did you know that it can be OK to use serial commas, or not to use them? Neither idea is inherently wrong. The key is to pick which one your org should use, and use it consistently.
A style guide can be something as simple as choosing an existing style guide and following it. There are several preset guides out there, used by various audiences. The AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style are two well-known guides that have been in use for decades across numerous industries. The former does not like serial commas, while the latter insists on them. There are other style guides as well, including the APA Style Guide, which is produced by the American Psychological Association and is largely used by researchers and practitioners, and the Bluebook, which is the legal profession’s guide.
Customize the editorial style guide
Some organizations will opt to pick and choose. They might largely use the AP Stylebook, but use serial commas. That can lead to the development of in-house style guides. These are documents that spell out the fact that the AP Stylebook is the main source of guidance, but there are exceptions for this brand.
And if this all sounds nitpicky and tedious—well, it can be. Maybe you think hardly anyone will notice inconsistency or errors. But some people may pick up on it subliminally, while others consciously notice typos and misplaced apostrophes. The latter are likely to form a strong opinion, and not a good one. The message they’ll get is that you’re not that concerned with your brand, or think your potential customers aren’t very bright—neither of which is a positive (more on protecting your brand here). Worst case, your errors may go viral online for all the wrong reasons.
Think commas aren’t a big deal? This humorous twist on a classic holiday song shows how much they can change the meaning of a basic sentence.