Frank Sinatra said it best: if you’ve got style you stand out a mile. But in the business world it’s not just about the way you wear your hat that strengthens your image.

Every organisation that values its brand should invest in a style guide. It gives editorial and design guidance on everything from how to spell the company’s products to the typeface used in marketing collateral.

To writers and editors, an editorial house style is an essential tool to do justice to their clients’ brands. Yet in the last six months I’ve worked on material for several major organisations that couldn’t provide me with even the simplest guidance, such as whether people’s job titles are lower case or what tone of voice to use.

So here’s my case for investing in a house style guide.

Five reasons why a style guide is vital

  1. Copywriters and designers can find all the references they need to produce quality material in one place.
  2. If everyone uses the guide, company messages are communicated effectively, consistently and clearly.
  3. Guidelines enable creative people to present the organisation in the best possible light.
  4. Accuracy makes the reader more likely to trust the publication.
  5. All these benefits add up to an engaging read.

Best style guides

I’ve come across many house styles that use guides purloined from design or internal communications agencies. Some are tweaked to add a flavour of the organisation involved. But nothing guarantees quality more than a tailor-made house style guide.

One of the best I’ve seen belongs to Rolls-Royce Group. It explains everything from basic grammar (how to use apostrophes etc) to the spelling of commonly used technical terms and products, along with tone of voice and tips on producing engaging copy.

Rolls-Royce is no slouch when it comes to quality. Its style guide underpins everything it stands for. Point taken I think.