Two organisations have sent me a writer’s style guide. One is a global corporation, the other is in the UK public sector – and I can’t thank either enough.
Crafting the right words in the right tone of voice without spelling or grammatical errors is a must for a professional writer but a style guide is invaluable. It helps you write consistent, professional copy, which in turn enables companies to create a good impression and reinforce their brand.
The corporate has sent me a perfect-bound colour guide with practical advice on tone of voice and how to describe what it does to various audiences. Its 60 pages are packed with great advice on its business, writing styles and sector-specific words and jargon.
The guide is beautifully written and packaged and totally tailored to its business. But the public sector organisation has shown that you don’t need huge amounts of money to achieve the same aim.
Its corporate communications director has written a Word document outlining the importance of style, with an alphabetical guide and commonly used terms within his sector. While this anchors the style to his organisation, he then refers the writer to two excellent books – The Economist Style Guide and Guardian Style – for all the nitty-gritty on grammar.
Each approach has its advantages. The corporate’s guide leaves the writer in no doubt about its look and feel. It’s longer-lasting and puts everything in one handy document but it is expensive to update and costly to distribute. The organisation’s method means it can update the Word document easily and send it by email but relies on the writer to buy the books – a worthwhile investment.
From a writer’s viewpoint, whichever option an organisation chooses, either way is better than no guide at all.