We’ve all heard of AP, Chicago Manual, and the other style guides out there (I prefer The Gregg Reference Manual). Most agencies, corporate communications or marcom departments will loosely follow one or the other. That is until you send that one article to the VP for review and he/she wonders why you didn’t cap his/her title and department in his/her quote (e.g. “…for the coming year,” said John/Joan Smith, vice president of finance.)
You can point to all the style guides you want, the Veep is going to have their title and department capped come hell or high water. And then ask why you didn’t cap every word in the headline. It’s times like this when having a style guide for your company can come in very handy.
This doesn’t mean you need to recreate or re-write Chicago or AP. Just create a document that lists the way your company formats certain things like headlines, titles, abbreviations, measurements, and other grammatical points. For example:
- Using a comma before the “and” with lists (depending on who you ask, some will use the third comma—e.g. commas, verbs, and periods—while others won’t—e.g. “commas, verbs and periods.”)
- Capping the first letter of every word in a headline or just the first word (e.g. “HiRoad Wins Award” or “HiRoad wins award”).
- Acronyms. Do you spell out the acronym every time or just once?
Now, this might seem to be a whole lot of extra work about “the small stuff” and with limited upside. That depends on your perspective. If you have more than one person writing for your company—particularly if you use freelancers—consistency is key. A style guide gives everybody who writes and reviews your collateral pieces—ads, brochures, press releases, Web content, etc.—a reference. This way, you don’t have inconsistencies in format—e.g. one article capping titles and departments and another lower casing.
We’ll cover some suggestions for what sections your style guide should contain in a future blog.