Are there certain words that really make you cringe? Do you have a strong opinion about American versus British spelling? Does a particular word always need to be capitalized across your communications?
In an age where content really is king (or queen), when you have particular grammatical preferences, it’s critical to communicate those with your team members. Particularly those who are responsible for conveying your message via the written word, creating blog posts, web content and social media updates. This is where you need to create a style sheet.
I’m willing to bet you already have one of these, even if it’s an informal one or one in your head. For instance … you know when you want less of a certain word in your communications, and what words you want to avoid completely. You know when certain words need to be capitalized or hyphenated. But rather than explaining over and over to your team members why these words must be used (or not used), it would be a great use of time for you to actually put all of these grammatical preferences in an editorial style sheet.
An editorial style sheet ensures written content is consistent across your business communications.
How to create a style sheet
Tackle the creation of your style sheet in chunks. You’ll need to touch on formatting preferences, spellings, capitalization, etc. This doesn’t have to be (nor should it be) a 50 page document. We’re talking two or three pages with the basics.
Thing to consider in creating a style sheet
Spelling: Do you prefer American or Canadian spelling? British or Australian? Many international clients, for instance, insist we stick with US spelling. This is something that should be indicated on a style sheet. When you send this sheet to your content developer, then you don’t have to explain over and over again which grammatical details you prefer.An editorial style sheet ensures written content is consistent across business communications.Click To Tweet
Formatting: Need a half inch indentation at the beginning of all sentences? Do you insist on bulleted lists? Consider double spacing to be a mortal sin? Any formatting issues you feel strongly about should be documented. When should bold and italics be used? Do you want a period at the end of a list or not? Think about the formatting issues that fit within your brand and write them down.
Capitalization: Some clients want us to capitalize the “I” in Internet, while others can’t stand the way that looks. And, in many circles, the word Virtual Assistant is always capitalized. Again, just document your preferences so it’s easier in the long run.In an age where content is king and you have grammatical preferences, you need a style sheet!Click To Tweet
Word use: If there are phrases and words that shouldn’t be used, make sure your team knows that! On the flip side, are there certain phrases and words you want stressed over and over? The style guide is where you’ll make a note of this.
There really is no right or wrong here in terms of rules; but the point is, you should be jotting these types of things down as they arise.
This article should serve as a good starting point, if nothing else. But now, I challenge and encourage you to really think long and hard about which grammatical rules are key to you and which ones really aren’t that important. Then (you guessed it!) write them down.
Also published on Medium.